11 Things You Should Know About Trees

Trees are literally everywhere. A tree is the most obvious and remarkable plant you will see when you venture outside. People are infinitely curious about trees in a forest or a tree in their yard. This tree guide will enable you to satisfy that curiosity and explain a tree in detail.

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How a Tree Grows

A sapling on a stub in a forest

Alanzon/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Very little of a tree's volume is actually "living" tissue. Just one percent of a tree is actually alive but you can be assured it is working overtime! The living portion of a growing tree is a thin film of cells just under the bark (called the cambium) plus the leaves and roots. The cambial meristem can be only one to several cells thick and is responsible for Nature's greatest work — the tree.

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Parts of a Tree

Willows (Salix sp.), illustration

Trees come in various shapes and sizes but all have the same basic structure. They have a central column called the trunk. The bark-covered trunk supports a framework of branches and twigs called the crown. Branches, in turn, bear an outside covering of leaves — and don't forget the roots.

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Tree Tissue

tree tissue diagram


Tree tissues are a combination of bark tissue, root tissue, and vascular tissue. All these tissues made of numerous cell types are unique to the plant kingdom and to trees specifically. To completely understand a tree's anatomy, you must study the tissues that support, protect, feed, and water a tree.

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The Structure of Wood

Giant sequoia trees, Sequoia National Park, California, USA
marcoisler / Getty Images

Wood is a combination of living, dying and dead cells that function much like a lamp wick, moving liquids up a tree from water-seeking roots. The roots are bathed in a nutrient-rich liquid which transports basic nutrients to the canopy where all is consumed or transpired. Tree cells not only transport water and nutrients to leaves for photosynthesis but also form the entire structure of support for the tree, store usable sugars, and include special reproductive cells that regenerate the living inner and outer bark.

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Where Trees Live

forest from bird's eye view.
kokouu / Getty Images

There are very few places in North America where a tree just can't grow. All but the most adverse sites will not support native and/or introduced trees. The United States Forest Service has defined 20 major forest regions in the United States where certain trees are most often seen by species. Here are those regions.

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Conifers and Hardwoods

conifer tree cones

Jon Houseman/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

There are two major groups of trees in North America — the conifer tree and the hardwood or broad-leaved tree. Conifers are identified by needle-like or scaley-like leaves. The broadleaf hardwood tree is identified with wide-bladed, broad leaves.

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Identify Your Tree With a Leaf

Dogwood and Oak Leaves
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Find a tree in the forest, collect a leaf or needle and answer a few questions. At the end of the question interview you should be able to identify a tree's name at least to the genus level. You will most likely be able to select the species with a little research.

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Why a Tree Is Important

several people hugging trees
stock_colors / Getty Images

Trees are important, valuable and necessary to our very existence. Without trees, we humans would not exist on this beautiful planet. In fact, some claim can be made that our mother's and father's ancestors climbed trees — another debate for another site.

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A Tree and Its Seeds

Germinating tree seeds in someone's hands
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Most trees use seeds to establish their next generation in the natural world. Seeds are tree embryos that burst into growth when conditions are exact and transfer tree genetic material from one generation to the next. This fascinating chain of events — the formation of seed to dispersal to germination — has fascinated scientists since there were scientists.

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Autumn Tree Color

Autumn leaf color around Kuraigahara sansō in in Mount norikura, Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture, Japan.

Alpsdake/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Autumn turns on a very miraculous switch that colors most trees in broad-leaf forests. Some conifers also like to display color in fall. The fall tree senses conditions that tell it to close shop for the winter and begins to prepare for cold and harsh weather. The results can be astonishing.

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The Dormant Tree

Tree still dormant in early spring

1brettsnyder/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

A tree prepares for winter in early fall and protects itself from winter. Leaves fall and the leaf scar closes to protect precious water and nutrients that have been collected during spring and summer. The entire tree undergoes a process of "hybernation" that slows growth and transpiration which will protect it until spring.

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Nix, Steve. "11 Things You Should Know About Trees." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/a-tree-guide-1343513. Nix, Steve. (2023, April 5). 11 Things You Should Know About Trees. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-tree-guide-1343513 Nix, Steve. "11 Things You Should Know About Trees." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-tree-guide-1343513 (accessed June 5, 2023).