With summer almost here and the weather getting warmer, it's a good time to think about trees.
Have you ever taken a ride in a car on a hot day and noticed how much cooler it is when you go down a shady street than when you are out in the sun? On a hot day, you can measure the temperature under a tree and out in a sunny area (make sure you keep sunlight from shining right on the thermometer because this gives a false reading). Imagine a world without trees!
So many things are built of wood. Apples and peaches and walnuts all grow on trees! Trees are the homes of many birds and the producers of tons of oxygen. Let's see what we can learn about these wonderful living things.
Look at a tree. Really look at it. Feel its bark. Lie on the ground underneath it and look up into its branches. Stand leaning against it and wrap your arms around it. Put your chin against the bark, look up and imagine you are an ant walking up the tree. Watch the branches on a windy day. Isn't a tree amazing?
Did you know that the roots of a tree spread underground about as far as its branches do above ground? Walk around a tree and imagine what its root system must be like.
What Tree is That? lets you answer questions about the properties of a tree to help you identify it. It asks questions about the tree's leaf or fruit. You can also look up trees by name and see pictures and information about them. The site shows trees found in Ohio, but most are also found in New York State. Tree Key uses photographs and a dichotomous key (which works by making choices between 2 different answers) to find out the names of 27 different trees.
What is the value of a tree? People who sell houses know that a house with trees in the yard sells for more than one that has no trees. Ohio's Extension service has a few ideas about the value of trees. The Backyard Gardener site has some ideas too. One answer is that every living thing has value of its own, just as every person's life is valuable.
The easiest way to find out the age of a tree is by looking at its growth rings. In climates where cold weather stops the tree from growing in the fall, a tree makes a ring of spring wood and a ring of summer wood each year. The ESP's Tree Ring page has some good links to learn more about tree rings.
How many objects made from wood have you touched today? Make a list and see.
People are searching for the biggest of each of the kinds of trees found in the United States. American Forests has a searchable registry of big trees so you can find out about all the national champion trees.
Did you know that giant sequoia trees are so big and exciting to see that the largest ones have been given names? The General Sherman Sequoia is the world's largest tree. It is 275 feet tall and its trunk measures 103 feet around and it weighs about 1,385 tons. It grows in Sequoia National Park in California.
The world's tallest trees are the coast redwoods, also found in California. Some of them stand over 360 feet tall.
Bristlecone pines, found in the Inyo National Forest high in the White Mountains in California, are the world's oldest trees. Some of them are over 4000 years old and may be the world's oldest living things.
The oldest kind of tree is the ginkgo or maidenhair tree. There were ginkgo trees growing on earth 270 million years ago. For a long time, Europeans only knew the ginkgo tree from fossils. Then in 1691, Englebert Kaemfer, a German scientist, found ginkgo trees living in Japan. In Japan and in China they had never been lost. They had been grown at Buddhist temples and monasteries for hundreds of years.
So that is just a start to learning about trees. You can do bark rubbings of trees by putting a piece of paper on a tree trunk and rubbing a crayon over the paper. You can do leaf rubbings. You can study leaves, collect them and press them in the pages of a book (a large phonebook works well). You can measure the height of trees. You can write poems and stories about trees. You can visit Dragonfly Magazine's website on trees for some tree activities. You are only limited by your curiosity and imagination.