Ten Questions: Trees

Trees are something that most of us have all around us. We see them every day, and most of us take them for granted. Have you ever wondered some specific things about them? What would we do without trees? Do they sleep? Do trees feel pain? How big do they get? Some serious questions and some not so much. Come find out.

What is the largest living tree in the world?
A Giant Sequoia, located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in the state of California in the United States, known as General Sherman is the largest tree in the world. It has a height of 83.8 meters (275 ft), and the volume of its trunk was last measured at about 1,487 cubic meters (52,513 cu ft).

What is the oldest living tree in the world?
The world's oldest known tree is a Conifer that first took root at the end of the last ice age. It was discovered in Sweden in 2004. The visible portion of the 4 meter (13 feet) tall "Christmas tree" isn't ancient, but its root system has been growing for 9,550 years. It is also the planet's longest living plant. It is a Norway Spruce, which is the type that is typically used to decorate European homes for Christmas.

Do trees sleep?
Trees are never asleep or awake in the same way as animals. Deciduous trees, the kind that drop their leaves, go into a period of dormancy during the winter or in a bad drought. They need this just like we need sleep. It's not quite the same, but neither are trees.

Do trees feel pain?
Nobody knows for sure if trees feel pain. All living things react to outside stimuli, so maybe they do feel something. But plants are very different from animals, and any feelings they may or may not have would most likely be very different from what we feel, including pain.

What do trees eat?
Trees don't really eat. They use a process called photosynthesis. The green parts of the tree absorb energy from sunlight and convert it to simple sugars. The output of oxygen is the byproduct of this process.

Do we need trees?
Yes. Without trees sending out oxygen into the air we wouldn't have enough oxygen to breath. Without trees most animal life would cease to exist. Trees were here before we were, and we need them much more than they need us.

Do trees ever stop growing?
Yes and no. A tree will keep growing forever if it is able, but there are many conditions that stop it, usually death. At some point a tree would have to either stop or collapse under its own weight. Disease, wind, attacks from animals could all stop a tree from growing or cause its death. It's the natural order of things. A tree is at the mercy of its environment.

What is the difference between a tree and a shrub?
Trees are woody, perennial plants that have one central stem, are generally more than 12 feet in height, and normally have a distinct head. Shrubs are woody, perennial plants that have a number of stems usually produced from near the soil line of the plant. Shrubs are generally less than 12 feet in height but some exceptions can reach 20 feet or more.

Can we eat trees?
We don't generally eat trees, but we can eat parts of them, like fruit or nuts. Some other animals can eat parts of trees that we don't but we all generally eat the same parts.

How can we use trees? 
Trees can be used for many things; more than can be listed here. We can eat the fruit or nuts. We can use the wood to build many things, such as houses or even boats. We even use parts of the wood to make paper. We can even get things like syrup and chewing gum from trees.

How did you like this interesting bit of trivia? Obviously we can't answer all questions in just one article, but if we get enough feedback and a lot of comments we might just revisit this subject with another ten questions.


  1. I am very fond of an Oak tree I planted seventeen years ago when my son was born. I have to admit I give this tree an occasional hug. But if Prince Charles can do it then so can I. I don't think I'm quite as strange as he is though. Hope you are well Ratty.

  2. Fun facts!
    I love trees of all kinds, I find them fascinating. I especially like the way nature, the weather and circumstances shape each tree and give it individuality.


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