SBS Design specializes in interior and exterior MDF door manufacturing. As a large manufacturer who very much abides by certain quality standards, we are really interested in the properties of the materials we use, and especially wood. Besides door manufacturing, however, wood is used in furniture making as well. Something more, most of the furniture in our homes and offices is made of wood. Here we speak of baffling quantities of material. For instance, each year IKEA alone uses 1% of the wood manufactured! This certainly has an impact on the environment. In that line of though, we value everything that trees give us, and we strive to protect our forests.
In what’s to follow, we would like to share with you 7 really fascinating facts about trees that you may not know.
#1 The largest (by volume) tree in the world
General Sherman is a giant sequoia, located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in California. At 83 meters tall, the General is not the tallest tree, but the circumstance of the thickest part of its stem is the astounding 31.3 meters! What makes General Sherman a contender is its volume. Calculations show that the volume of its trunk is 1487 cubic meters, which makes it the largest known single-stem tree on the planet!
Despite the fact that General Sherman currently holds the title, historically, there have been larger by volume trees. Scientists believe that in the 1940s there was a giant sequoia, named Crannell Creek, which was somewhere between 15 and 25% larger than General Sherman.
#2 The tallest tree
The tallest trees known to man are also representatives of the sequoia specie. They often reach about 90 meters in height, which in itself is amazing. But among them all, there is one tree named Hyperion, which dwarfs all the rest. Discovered in 2006, the tree is colossal. It reaches 115.7 meters in height!
Other giants, which are almost as tall as Hyperion are Helios – 114.1 meters, Icarus – 113.1 meters and Dedalus – 110.8 meters. The exact location of these giants is kept secret in order to preserve them.
Just to put things in perspective, the latest data show that the tallest tree in Bulgaria is a spruce in Rila mountain and its height is 56 meters.
#3 The oldest tree
According to the American database “Oldlist”, collecting information on the oldest trees in the world, the tree that holds the record in this category is a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva). Its name is Methuselah, after the biblical patriarch, and scientists believe the tree is 4850 years old. The precise location of the tree is again not disclosed, but it is somewhere in the Inyo National Forest in California. In 2010 there was another tree from the same species that took the crown for a very short period of time. It was estimated this tree was 5062 years old, but the age could not be verified and in 2017 Methuselah took the prestigious title back.
The oldest tree in Bulgaria is located in Granit village. The age of the Granit oak, as the tree is known, is estimated to be 1650 years. This is to say the tree predates the coming of the Bulgars on the territory that is now Bulgaria. The second oldest tree in Bulgaria is the Baikushev’s pine. The white fir tree is more than 1300 years old, making it a contemporary of the first khan of Bulgaria – khan Asparukh.
Fun fact: trees are the oldest living organisms on Earth. They never die of old age.
#4 Trees did not exist in the first 90% of Earth’s history
The Earth is about 1.5 billion years old, however, plants first came about 470 million years ago. Most likely, the first plants that came into existence were mosses and lichens with shorter roots. 50 million years later vascular plants came into being. These types of plants have lignified tissues – responsible for conducting minerals and water throughout the plant, which allows vascular plants to grow taller. In the next couple of tens of millions of years plants remain fairly short – about a meter high.
The vascular plants may have been miniscule, but at the time there was this mysterious genus of fungi, named Prototaxites. Scientists claim that these fungi were massive – their stem was a meter wide and 8 meters tall. The scientific community was for a long time divided on whether Prototaxites were fungi or trees. The issue was resolved in 2007, when after long debates the community agreed these were actually fungi.
#5 Some trees exude chemical elements
At first sight, trees look passive and defenseless. They, however, possess some extraordinary and very specific defense mechanisms to protect them against parasites. Thus, some species exude chemical elements, which repel insects that feed on leaves. Something more, it is observed that trees could “transmit” chemical signals by air in order to warn other trees for an incoming insect attack. Research shows that many trees and other plants become a lot more resilient after receiving such warnings.
It is interesting to note that these chemical signals could give information to other species as well. For instance, it is proven that some trees attract predators and parasites that feed on insects that threaten the tree. Put simply, by means of chemical signals, trees call for backup that takes care of invaders. A 2013 research shows that apple trees which are attacked by caterpillars exude chemicals which attract caterpillar-feeding birds.
#6 Trees can share food
As most plants, trees have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that live in their roots. These fungi help trees absorb more water and minerals from the soil, and in turn, trees give fungi sugar molecules, derived in photosynthesis. Latest research show that mycorrhizal system works like an underground network on a very large scale. Experts argue that these networks connect the trees in entire forests to one another.
All this uncannily resembles James Cameron’s Avatar. On the distant moon of Pandora where the plot takes place, all organisms are connected to each other. They communicate and share resources through “electro-chemical communication between tree roots”. In reality, as it turns out, there may be something that to a large extent resembles the processes in the flora, described in the movie.
For decades scientists have attempted to fully comprehend the abilities of the fungi network. Everything started in 1977 when Suzanne Simard – a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, uncovered one of the first pieces of evidence. She showed that Douglas fir sends carbon to young birch trees through fungal mycelium in the soil. Since then scientists proved that plants could exchange nitrogen and phosphorus in the same way.
Fungi connect the trees, located a short distance from one another, making up a cast communications platform, covering entire forests and used for resource sharing. Suzanne Simard found that these networks connect older and larger central trees, or “mother trees”, to hundreds of smaller and younger trees around them.
#7 Trees help us no only by producing oxygen
Scientists contend that phytoplankton photosynthesis produces 50 to 85% of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere. Trees also contribute by producing oxygen, but the quantities produced are not known. Different sources claim that fully-grown tree could produce enough oxygen to last 2 to 10 people for a year. Others, however, put the produced oxygen at a much lower levels.
But even if we don’t take into account oxygen production, there are plenty of other benefits of trees. They are a source of food, they stop winds, and even prevent landslides and floods. With that said, probably one of the trees’ most beneficial effects for humans is that they clean the polluted air in big cities. More than 3 million people die each year as a result of diseases caused by polluted air. In less than 30 years, by 2050, that number could go well above 6 million. Trees in cities could help significantly by reducing fine dust particle pollution and literally save human lives.
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