The Wonder of Trees

Wildlife Watcher Olivia shares her knowledge of trees and why we should all help look after them.

Oak tree - Olivia Bird

Trees are everywhere. Whether you live in a rural area, an urban city, or somewhere in between, it’s safe to say that there’s a tree somewhere near you. There are over 3 trillion trees on planet earth. They are immensely diverse, and so adaptable that they are found on every continent except Antarctica.

As you may already know, earth’s life support system depends on trees. This is because trees carry out a process called photosynthesis. This means that trees absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight, and produce glucose and oxygen. Just like animals need food, the glucose produced in photosynthesis is stored as food for the plant, however the oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and we use it to breathe!

Trees are also vital to natural ecosystems


Great spotted woodpecker on birch tree - Peter Cairns/2020VISION

In fact, just one tree can provide food, shelter and habitat for a whole host of creatures. Animals that live in trees are known as arboreal, and animals that rely on both trees and other habitats are called semi-arboreal. Some examples of animals that use trees as a habitat include many species of bird, squirrel and insect.

People who study trees are sometimes called ‘dendrologists’. This comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘dendron’, meaning tree. Some trees are of particular interest to dendrologists. Some of these are called ancient trees. A tree is classed as an ancient tree when it is particularly old for its species. The age that a tree must reach before officially being called an ancient tree is different depending on the species. The tree with the longest lifespan is the yew tree, living for over 4000 years! One of Britain’s most famous trees is an English oak tree located in Sherwood forest, which is thought to be approximately 1000 years old. Legend has it that this was the tree under which Robin Hood and his merry men slept!


Woodland - Stuart Petch

One activity you could try at home is creating a leaf rubbing. To do this, you can collect fallen, dry leaves and place them underneath a piece of paper, with the ‘veins’ of the leaf facing upwards. You can then rub a crayon of any colour over the top of the paper, and watch as the leaf’s pattern is transferred onto the paper! As well as being used for leaf rubbings, you can use a leaf to identify a species of tree. There are many different types of tree, and so some people use a leaf chart to discover the species of certain trees.

Currently, Britain’s trees are in danger. They are under threat from many human-related causes, including pests and illnesses, climate change, and deforestation. It is imperative that we do all that we can to protect the trees we have left. There are also many petitions that you can sign in order to prevent the deforestation of large areas of the UK. Finally, if you are able to, consider planting a tree. This is both a great project and a fantastic way to help save the trees.

New trees

Planting new trees in Feanedock Wood, Derbyshire - Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION