The Trees Portal

Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), a deciduous broad-leaved (angiosperm) tree
Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), a deciduous broad-leaved (angiosperm) tree

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. The majority of tree species are angiosperms or hardwoods; of the rest, many are gymnosperms or softwoods. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. Trees have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are some three trillion mature trees in the world.

A tree typically has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground by the trunk. This trunk typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from one part of the tree to another. For most trees it is surrounded by a layer of bark which serves as a protective barrier. Below the ground, the roots branch and spread out widely; they serve to anchor the tree and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Above ground, the branches divide into smaller branches and shoots. The shoots typically bear leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development.

Trees usually reproduce using seeds. Flowers and fruit may be present, but some trees, such as conifers, instead have pollen cones and seed cones. Palms, bananas, and bamboos also produce seeds, but tree ferns produce spores instead.

Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues. Trees and forests provide a habitat for many species of animals and plants. Tropical rainforests are among the most biodiverse habitats in the world. Trees provide shade and shelter, timber for construction, fuel for cooking and heating, and fruit for food as well as having many other uses. In parts of the world, forests are shrinking as trees are cleared to increase the amount of land available for agriculture. Because of their longevity and usefulness, trees have always been revered, with sacred groves in various cultures, and they play a role in many of the world's mythologies. (Full article...)

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Postcard of the tree from the 1930s or 1940s
Postcard of the tree from the 1930s or 1940s
The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree that, according to legend, has legal ownership of itself and of all land within eight feet (2.4 m) of its base. Also known as the Jackson Oak, the tree is at the corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens, Georgia, US. The original tree, thought to have started life between the mid-16th and late 18th century, fell in 1942, but a new tree was grown from one of its acorns and planted in the same location. The current tree is sometimes referred to as the Son of the Tree That Owns Itself. Both trees have appeared in numerous national publications, and the site is a local landmark. (Full article...)

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Fraxinus ornus1862 illustration
Fraxinus ornus
1862 illustration

Fraxinus (/ˈfræksɪnəs/), commonly called ash, is a genus of flowering plants in the olive and lilac family, Oleaceae. It contains 45–65 species of usually medium to large trees, mostly deciduous, though a number of subtropical species are evergreen. The genus is widespread across much of Europe, Asia, and North America.

The leaves are opposite (rarely in whorls of three), and mostly pinnately compound, though simple in a few species. The seeds, popularly known as "keys" or "helicopter seeds", are a type of fruit known as a samara. Some Fraxinus species are dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate plants but sex in ash is expressed as a continuum between male and female individuals, dominated by unisexual trees. With age, ash may change their sexual function from predominantly male and hermaphrodite towards femaleness ; if grown as an ornamental and both sexes are present, ashes can cause a considerable litter problem with their seeds. Rowans or mountain ashes have leaves and buds superficially similar to those of true ashes, but belong to the unrelated genus Sorbus in the rose family. (Full article...)

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