Trees are the lifeblood of our planet in countless weird and wonderful ways. From their connection to chocolate and their health-giving goodness to the oldest, newest, tallest and weirdest trees on earth, these quirky facts will make you want to get to some greenery, fast.
1.Trees love chocolate
Ok that’s not strictly true. But they should and here’s why. Cacao thrives in a shaded environment and farmers are being encouraged by the Nature Conservancy organisation to integrate cacao into their existing forests, switching to a more tree-friendly livelihood (farmers usually need to clear land to plant most other crops). As if anyone needed more reasons to love chocolate. Or trees.
2.Speed tree planting
Here are some eyebrow-raising stats for Guinness World Record tree planting. The record for most trees planted in a day by one person is 15,170. The record for the most palm trees planted over a ten-year period – very specific, this one – goes to the United Arab Emirates for the decade to 2009. Finally, the current world record for the most trees planted in 24 hours in one location (involving 300 people from a Forest Department in Pakistan) is 847,275. Just 300 people to plant almost a million trees? Come on world, let’s follow Pakistan’s epic lead.
3.Tree posts break Instagram
A clever Instagram post from a sustainable clothing brand promised that the company would plant one tree for every ten Likes. The result? Viral Likes and Shares sent its counter past the 15 million point in no time, earning the brand some seriously good PR while giving its likers the feel-good factor. It remains a most-liked post in Instagram history. If you haven’t already: like that post, plant that tree.
4.The Oldest Trees on Earth
A single grove of Quaking Aspen trees in Utah is believed to be the oldest living organism in the world and is nicknamed The Trembling Giant. Its individual trees share one root system and have cloned themselves over the centuries. The grove is called Pando, meaning ‘I spread’ and its age is rumoured to be a staggering 80,000. Camping locally? If park signs say no chopping for firewood, they mean it!
5.Trees need sex
Many trees clone themselves many times over, a tactic that’s saved them from extinction when no similar species are near. New reports suggest that fertility gradually drops with age, according to an article in the PLOS Biology Journal, suggesting that trees simply can’t live forever without sexual reproduction. Not the kind of thing you’d want to interrupt on a romantic afternoon picnic…
6.Trees are good for our health
Forest bathing is trending and its benefits are rooted in fact, not fad. It comes from the Japanese practice of ‘shinrin-yoku’ and Prof. Yoshifumi Miyazaki, an author on tree therapy, explains how immersing our senses and bodies in greenery brings psychological and physiological benefits.
Urbanites fear not – visiting your local park or keeping plants indoors can provide the boost you need.
7.Trees use camouflage
Animals aren’t Mother Nature’s only camouflage experts, so says a study cited in Science Daily. Research suggests that New Zealand’s Araliaceae tree has its own unique way to protect its seedling leaves from predators, going through several colour transitions as it matures. This unusual process was to safeguard it against a now-extinct predator, the ostrich-like Moa bird.
8.Trees are stress-busters
Fascinating research published in the Environment and Behaviour journal shows that even looking at trees on screen can reduce your stress levels. The beneficial effects are closely linked to how much greenery you looked at (the more trees the better!). Even virtual trees are good for you. Wow. If you do nothing else today, change your screensavers to mood-enhancing trees, plants and rainforests.
9.Oldest tree ever cut down
The oldest tree to have its age recorded by counting its rings was a bristlecone pine in Nevada named Prometheus. It had survived at an altitude of 3,048m in very harsh conditions. With almost 4,900 rings, Prometheus’s age was estimated at a hard-to-imagine 5,200 years old. What were humans doing back then? Not imagining today’s tree-tastrophe, that’s for sure. If only trees could talk…
What do trees do at night? They rest, just like us. They also drink and, as Darwin proved, go through growth spurts. Between sunset and sunrise, their branches droop by as much as 10cm as the water pressure in their plant cells drops. Sandra Knapp, a botanist at the Natural History Museum, explained how trees use their nights to relax, droop, eat, stretch and suck up water. As if providing oxygen, taking the carbon dioxide out of the air and generally keeping the planet going wasn’t enough.