The most interesting thing about trees…

Trees are not just beneficial to our environment, they are also fascinating because they have unique adaptations.

Faith Sayo

Faith Sayo

28 Mar, 2024

The most interesting thing about trees…

Trees are more than just plants: they are complex living organisms that play an important role in the health of our planet and enrich our lives in different ways.

At Earthly, we're passionate about protecting and nurturing the world around us. We champion a three-pronged approach to environmental well-being: fostering healthy ecosystems by supporting biodiversity, empowering communities, and mitigating climate change through carbon reduction. 

Trees are key in this strategy; they're nature's carbon capture machines, absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it within their trunks and leaves. They also offer food, shelter, and breeding grounds for different plant and animal species. But trees also play an important role in the lives of indigenous communities, who have long understood the profound connection between humans and nature. 

By supporting nature-based projects, we're not just working towards a healthier and sustainable planet, we're helping communities thrive alongside the very forests they've lived off for generations. 

There so much more to know about trees - we guarantee we can tell you something you didn’t already know!

What could be the most fascinating things about trees?

Mangrove trees - known for their intricate root system and carbon capture capabilities

Mangrove trees - known for their intricate root system and carbon capture capabilities

Lifespan and history

  • Ancient champions: Bristlecone pines in California's White Mountains hold the record for the oldest living trees, with some exceeding 5,000 years. 

  • Fossil forefathers: The fossilised remains of trees, some dating back 300 million years, offer a glimpse into Earth's prehistoric forests. These petrified giants reveal the evolution of tree species and past environmental conditions.

  • Travelling seeds: The winged seeds of maple trees can pirouette on the wind for long distances, ensuring the spread of their species and colonisation of new territories.

Size and strength

  • Towering titans: Coast redwoods in California reign supreme in terms of height, with some reaching over 375 feet (114 metres) – taller than a football field!

  • Broadest beauties: The Angel Oak in South Carolina boasts the widest crown of any live oak tree in the world, spanning an incredible 187 feet (57 metres) in diameter. Imagine the shade it provides!

  • Root powerhouses: The Banyan tree, native to India, has aerial roots that descend from its branches and root back into the ground, creating a network that can support its immense size.

Communication and defence

  • Silent SOS: When attacked by insects, some trees release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that act as distress signals. These airborne messages warn neighbouring trees of the danger, allowing them to ramp up their defences.

  • Fungal friendship: Trees have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. These microscopic partners weave a web around tree roots, increasing their ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In return, the trees provide the fungi with sugars produced through photosynthesis.

  • Sticky strategy: Certain trees, like the Holly Oak, produce sticky sap to trap and deter herbivores from munching on their leaves. This gooey defence mechanism helps them conserve precious resources.

Environmental benefits

  • Climate champions: Trees are nature's air filters. A mature tree can absorb up to 60 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, a major greenhouse gas, and release life-giving oxygen in return. They play a crucial role in combating climate change.

  • Water warriors: The vast root systems of trees act like natural sponges, soaking up rainwater and preventing soil erosion. Additionally, they release moisture back into the atmosphere through transpiration, helping regulate regional climates.

  • Habitat havens promoting biodiversity: From towering giants to sprawling mangroves, trees provide vital habitats for countless animals. Birds build nests in their branches, squirrels create cosy dens, and insects find refuge from predators amongst the leaves.

The ultimate tree trivia

  • Luminous leaves: While not as dazzling as fireflies, some trees in tropical rainforests host bioluminescent fungi that emit an ethereal glow at night. This otherworldly light show adds a touch of magic to the forest floor.

  • Walking on stilts: The aptly named Socratea exorrhiza, or "walking palm" of South America, isn't actually ambulatory. However, it has specialised stilt roots that allow it to slowly extend itself over long distances, colonising new territories.

  • Sweet treats: The sugary sap of certain maple trees is tapped and boiled down to produce the delicious syrup we love on pancakes. Yum!

Food and medicine

  • Nature's pharmacy: Over half of all medicines come from natural sources, with many derived from trees. From the life-saving bark of the Pacific Yew (used in cancer treatment) to the pain-relieving properties of willow bark (aspirin's predecessor), trees offer a treasure trove of potential medical advancements.

  • Nutty delights: Trees like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts provide us with a delicious and nutritious source of protein and healthy fats.

  • Fruity bounty: From apples and oranges to mangoes and durians, trees offer a diverse array of fruits that are not only tasty but also packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

Communication and social networks

  • Chemical conversations: Studies suggest that willows release salicylic acid (a component of aspirin) when stressed. This airborne signal may be a way for them to communicate with neighbouring trees, potentially warning them of danger.

  • Underground connections: Recent research suggests that trees may be connected through a network of fungal threads that allows them to share nutrients and water. This hidden communication system highlights the interconnectedness of the forest ecosystem.

A closer look: some incredible species

Baobab tree - mostly known for their swollen trunks

Baobab tree - mostly known for their swollen trunks

1. Methuselah - bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)

Estimated to be over 4,800 years old, making it the oldest known living organism on Earth.

2. Pando - quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Estimated to be around 80,000 years old, making it one of the oldest and heaviest organisms on Earth.

Composed of genetically identical stems connected by a single root system, known as a clonal colony, covering over 100 acres.

3. General sherman - giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Holds the title of the world's largest tree by volume, standing approximately 275 feet tall with a circumference of over 100 feet at its base.

4. Hyperion - coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

Stands as the tallest tree on Earth, soaring to a staggering height of over 379 feet, equivalent to a 30-story building.

Redwoods, including Hyperion, play a crucial role in storing carbon, mitigating climate change, and providing habitat for diverse plant and animal species.

5. Baobab trees (Adansonia spp.)

Native to Madagascar and mainland Africa, with iconic species such as Adansonia digitata (African baobab) and Adansonia grandidieri (Grandidier's baobab).

Characterised by their distinctive swollen trunks, capable of storing thousands of gallons of water during drought periods, enabling survival in arid landscapes.

6. Dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

Recognisable by its umbrella-shaped canopy and dense crown of dagger-like leaves, with oozing red sap known as "dragon's blood" prized for its medicinal and cosmetic properties.

The Dragon's tree is a flagship species of Socotra's unique flora, adapted to the island's arid and rocky terrain, and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Willow tree (Salix spp.)

Willow bark contains salicin, a compound with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which has been used for centuries to alleviate pain, fever, and inflammation. It inspired the creation of aspirin.

Some species of willow, such as Salix babylonica (weeping willow), are known for their graceful, pendulous branches that sweep the ground, creating a picturesque silhouette.

8. Neem tree (Azadirachta indica)

Neem leaves, seeds, and oil are used in traditional medicine for their antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Neem oil is also used in skincare products for its moisturising and insect-repellent properties.

The neem tree is often referred to as the "village pharmacy" in India due to its wide-ranging medicinal uses and cultural significance in Ayurvedic medicine.

9. Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Tea tree oil, derived from the leaves of the tea tree, is renowned for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a popular ingredient in skincare products and natural remedies for acne, dandruff, and fungal infections.

10. Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo biloba extract, derived from the leaves of the ginkgo tree, is used in traditional Chinese medicine and modern herbal supplements to improve cognitive function, circulation, and memory.

Ginkgo trees are often referred to as "living fossils" because they are the sole survivors of an ancient group of plants that existed over 200 million years ago, with fossils dating back to the time of dinosaurs.

11. Eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus spp.)

Eucalyptus leaves contain volatile oils with antimicrobial and decongestant properties, making them a common ingredient in cough drops, throat lozenges, and inhalants for respiratory conditions.

Koalas are primarily arboreal marsupials that feed exclusively on the leaves of eucalyptus trees, which provide their main source of nutrition and moisture.

12. Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora)

Camphor, derived from the wood and leaves of the camphor tree, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used in aromatherapy and topical treatments for pain relief and respiratory congestion.

Camphor trees are known for their distinctive aromatic scent, which repels insects and moths. Camphor oil is used in mothballs and insect repellents to protect clothing and stored goods.

What makes a tree special?

0ak tree - renown for supporting biodiversity

Oak tree - reknown for supporting biodiversity

Trees are special because they are essential for life on Earth, providing a multitude of ecological, economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits that enrich our planet and enhance the well-being of present and future generations.

But here are some key aspects that truly set them apart:

  • Longevity: Trees are the ultimate survivors, with some species living for thousands of years. They act as silent witnesses to history, standing tall through countless changes in the environment.

  • Environmental benefit: Trees are the lungs of our planet. They purify the air we breathe by absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and releasing life-giving oxygen. Their intricate root systems prevent soil erosion and regulate water flow.

  • Symbiotic relationships: Trees don't exist in isolation. They have fascinating partnerships with other organisms like fungi and insects. Mycorrhizal fungi help them absorb nutrients while some insects pollinate their flowers, ensuring reproduction.

  • Diversity and beauty: Trees come in a staggering variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. Their leaves provide a vibrant canopy, their flowers add a touch of fragrance, and their overall form brings a sense of peace and tranquillity to any landscape.

  • Economic importance: Trees provide us with valuable resources like timber, fruits, nuts, and even medicine. They also contribute significantly to tourism and recreation, offering opportunities for hiking, camping, and enjoying the beauty of nature.

  • Cultural significance: Trees have been woven into the stories, myths, and traditions of countless cultures throughout history. They symbolise strength, wisdom, growth, and renewal, holding a special place in our collective imagination.

Partnering with trees for a sustainable future

Dragon blood tree - known for its umbrella-like crown and red sap

Dragon blood tree - known for its umbrella-like crown and red sap

Throughout this article, we've explored the wonders of trees – their longevity, environmental benefits, and cultural significance. But these silent giants face threats from deforestation and climate change. 

Innovative solutions help to mitigate these challenges. For example, Earthly acts as a bridge, connecting businesses with impactful nature-based projects. We focus on high-quality, vetted projects with scientific backing and ongoing monitoring provides businesses with confidence in their impact. 

These projects go beyond just planting trees. They focus on holistic solutions like:

  • Forest restoration: Earthly facilitates investments in restoring degraded forests, promoting biodiversity and creating healthy ecosystems.

  • Sustainable forestry: Businesses can support responsible forestry practices that ensure long-term forest health and minimise environmental impact.

  • Community development:  Earthly prioritises projects that empower local communities and ensure they benefit from forest conservation efforts.


partnering with Earthly

, businesses can offset their carbon footprint and support sustainability goals to demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility.