You might think you know everything about our big leafy friends, but Mother Nature can often surprise us. If you would like to uncover the secrets of trees that go way beyond the usual photosynthesis, now’s the best time to do it!
Let’s climb all the way to the top and get a better look at the unexpected side of our green companions!
1. Carnivorous trees
Surprisingly, trees aren’t strictly vegetarian. While they won’t attack anyone (duh), they do have a hidden taste for certain minerals that can only be found in animals. Although trees whip up their own sweet, syrupy goo, these forest dwellers rely on fungi to produce vital minerals like sodium and calcium by breaking down meat and bones. It’s a great example of symbiosis, aka “You scratch my roots, I’ll scratch yours.”
2. Are bushes just short trees?
In biology, animals and plants usually have fancy Latin names and fall into specific families and orders, but when it comes to trees, they’re quite the outliers. These green giants don’t fit neatly into those categories. Well, to be even more specific, they’re plants that got really tall to get more sunshine. So technically, a tall bush is also a tree, right?
3. Do trees sleep?
Nap time is important for all living organisms, but have you ever wondered if trees need beauty sleep? Scientists got curious and studied two silver birch trees—one in Finland and the other in the Land Down Under. Using lasers, they found that the trees “relaxed” at night, hitting their lowest point a few hours before dawn, and right before the sun peeked out, some branches perked up. Sure, they may not be snoring like that old guy next door, but it looks like at least these two birches had some good night’s sleep.
4. Guardians and/or destroyers
Deep in the Cambodian jungle, there are Angkor temples that have been abandoned for over 500 years. Today, the whole place is filled with massive tree roots and trunks wrapped around the structures. In 2014, some scientists decided to assess if the temples could be restored by removing the trees, and the results were not looking good. The Ta Keo temple, which was already partially deforested, lost over 90% of the stone carvings, and the Beng Mealea temple, which still had roots and vines all over it, lost only 20% of the carvings. As you can see, Angkor’s trees play the roles of both protectors and destroyers, which is quite ironic.
5. The tallest tree
Believe it or not, trees can also have celebrity status, like this big boy “Menara” from Malaysian Borneo. In Malay, the word Menara means “tower,” and it definitely lives up to the name. This yellow meranti tree holds the titles of both the world’s tallest flowering plant and tallest tropical tree, “towering” over the rest of those leafy losers at a whopping 330 feet. This gigantic plant weighs a jaw-dropping 180,000 pounds (over 81 tonnes), and the experts say it’s pushing the limits of what tropical trees can pull off.
6. There’s gold in them thar trees!
In Western Australia, there’s a really cool eucalyptus grove with a heavy metal secret – gold in its leaves. Mining engineers mentioned that eucalyptus roots often reached deep into gold mines, so the scientists decided to do some research and see if they could find gold particles in the leaves, given that plants can absorb minerals from the soil. Even though there were no sparkly bits found in the immediate vicinity, the gold specks in the leaves pointed at underground deposits. So, in a way, that grove is an actual gold mine!
7. Trees with personal Emails
There are thousands of city-owned trees in Melbourne, Australia, so it’s rather hard for a small team of workers to keep track of their health. One would say it’s an impossible task unless you find a way to enlist the locals. Each tree got an ID number and a dedicated email address to which anyone could send their notes or report the damage. But as it often happens, people went wild with their messages, and instead of reporting important stuff, they started sending love letters to the trees, complimenting their looks, and thanking them. The weirdest part, however, was that the trees actually replied!