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Willows know self defense + more cool tree facts


Trees are so great, there's a whole day devoted to them — Love a Tree Day! And what's not to love about trees? You can climb them, sit under them or just stare at their natural beauty. Trees provide us with fruit, and they're home to birds, bugs and many other animals. Besides all that, they're the largest type of plant. And they can live to be thousands of years old, making them the oldest living organism on Earth. So why not show a tree a little love today? But first, check out these cool facts about trees!

That's a lot of trees

squirrel sitting on a fallen tree

Canada's forests are home to all kinds of animals. (Photo credit: Airflore on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

It's believed there are over 60,000 tree species around the world and over 3 trillion (yes, trillion!) trees on Earth. In Canada, the most common tree species is the spruce. And it's estimated our country is covered in nearly 320 billion trees. Now that's a lot of leaves!

Leaves or needles?

a conifer on the left and a deciduous tree on the right

The branch of a conifer (left) and the branch of a deciduous tree (right).

There are two main types of trees: deciduous and conifers. Deciduous trees shed their leaves once a year. And conifers are cone-bearing evergreens that have needle-like leaves that they keep year-round.

The thirsty tree

tree roots snaking across the forest floor

Trees suck up water with their roots. The water travels up the trunk, through the branches, and all the way to the leaves. Some trees "drink" about 2,000 litres of water each year. That's like you gulping back 8,455 cups of water a year — or 23 cups every day!

Tree talk

a very green bug on a very green leaf

A Hawthorn Shield bug, also called a stink bug, likes to snack on the leaves of oak trees in the winter. (Photo credit: barry burke1 on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA)

Some trees can communicate with each other. For example, scientists have found that if a willow tree is being attacked by bugs, it'll release airborne chemicals to warn nearby willows of the threat. To defend themselves against an insect attack, those other trees begin to produce a substance that makes their leaves harder for bugs to digest.

Record-breaking trees

person standing in front of a gigantic redwood tree in the forest

The giant California redwood trees really are giant … and old! (Photo credit: drainhook on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA)

No other organism lives as long as a tree. As for the oldest living tree in the world? That title belongs to a small spruce tree found in Sweden. Nicknamed Old Tjikko, the tree is thought to be about 9,550 years old! When it comes to the tallest tree around, you'd have to travel to California to see it. There, a giant redwood known as Hyperion stands an impressive 115.54 metres tall — that's about the height of 20 giraffes!

Moon trees from space

a plaque showing the planting of a tree using seeds that went to space

Plaque beneath the Bicentennial Moon Tree, located in the northeast corner of Washington Square in Philadelphia, U.S. (Wikimedia/George100/SS BY-SA)

When astronauts went to space on Apollo 14 in 1971, they brought along hundreds of tree seeds. The seeds orbited the moon 34 times. When the seeds returned to Earth along with the astronauts, scientists wondered if having been in space would affect the way the seeds grew on Earth. There was only one way to find out. Plant them! When the seeds sprouted, the seedlings — which were named Moon trees thanks to their space travel — were planted around the world. And it turns out the trees grown from space seeds grew up to be no different from the other trees found on Earth.

The spirits in the trees

a face carved into a tree trunk

Have you ever knocked on wood for luck? There's a superstition that says if you rap your knuckles on wood it'll keep bad luck away. Some believe this superstition got started with ancient pagan cultures such as the Celts, who believed that spirits and mystical creatures lived in trees. By knocking on a tree trunk, people hoped to wake the spirits, so they'd provide protection and bring about some good luck. It's worth a try!