Nature Swiss National Park Photo By Hansueli Krapf Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Published on February 25th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie


Trees: A Vital Resource To Be Treasured

Swiss National Park Photo By Hansueli Krapf Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Majestic, dignified and crucial to the planet in which we live, trees are the lungs of the Earth. Acting as giant filters absorbing pollutants from the air, they give us back clean, fresh oxygen to breathe.

Trees are one of the most underestimated and undervalued of natural resources in the world.

General Sherman Redwood Tree Photo By Jim Bahn

General Sherman Redwood Tree Photo By Jim Bahn

The Role Of Trees

Trees accommodate us with shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. They are home to birds, squirrels, monkeys, insects and any other animal or human that wishes to reside in their leafy branches.

In addition, they provide us with medicines, fruits and oils. Trees are one of the most precious gifts nature has bestowed on us. But regrettably,  most of us take trees for granted and many governments and logging companies chop them down indiscriminately. They do so without any thought, or knowledge, of the damage they are causing to the atmosphere and the delicate ecosystems living and depending on the trees for their survival.

The First Trees

The first trees date back to the Devonian period and were more like large primitive ferns than trees. They pollinated through spores instead of seeds. These were known as Archaeopteris and often grew to be over 20 metres (70 feet) high.

When they eventually died, they went back into the ground and helped form the coal , gas and oil we use today. So even in death they continue to give to the Earth.

European Larch Photo By Sciadopitys Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

European Larch Photo By Sciadopitys Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

There are thousands of tree species in the world but sadly, because of the constant felling of trees, we are losing a valuable and fundamental resource. For example, rainforests used to cover 14% of the Earth’s surface, today just 6% remains.

Rainforests provide 20% of the world’s oxygen and many believe that the last remaining rainforests will have disappeared in 40 years’ time.

With the destruction of the rainforests comes not only the catastrophic loss of the trees themselves but also the disappearance of animals, insects and the tribes who live among the rainforests. With the dispersal of these tribes, in particular, the Amazonian peoples, comes the extinction of thousands of years of knowledge of trees and their medicinal properties.

Tree’s Use In Medicine

Trees have been valued for years for their curative qualities. Many of today’s medicines are procured from trees, for example, Taxol, which is used in the chemotherapy treatment of Breast Cancer, is derived from the  Yew Tree. Meanwhile, the bark of the Willow Tree contains salicin which is similar to aspirin and can be used in the treatment of pains.

Trees In A Deciduous Forest Photo By Snežana Trifunović Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Trees In A Deciduous Forest Photo By Snežana Trifunović Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

The Eucalyptus Tree is the source of the antiseptic oil used in aromatherapy, while Pine Nuts and Pine Needles are renowned for treating breathing problems. There are countless other examples of medicines coming from trees.

Other species of trees produce luscious fruits, like apples, oranges, plumbs, coconuts, bananas…the list goes on. Just what is inside a tree that can produce such succulent fruits is a mystery, but yet from this massive plant comes delicate colourful health-giving fruits, complete with skin and juicy contents, giving us nourishment and vital vitamins and minerals.

The Oldest Living Tree

Trees have been on the Earth long before humans and often live to be thousands of years old. Even in old age, trees can still remain strong and sturdy, with their ageless character and vim intact.

Trees In The Amazon Rainforest Photo By Cesar Paes Barreto

‘Methuselah’ is said to be the oldest living tree in the world. Methuselah is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine almost 5000 years old. It is located in California.

Scientists can tell the age of a tree through dendrochronology. From studying a tree, they can learn about insect activity. They can even tell if a tree was damaged by storms or even if it survived a forest fire.

They can do this by examining fallen trees nearby of the same type and size. Another way is to count the rings (called dendrochronology) on the trunk of a cut tree. Each ring pattern represents a year in the life of the tree. The different colours correspond to spring wood and summer wood. The lighter coloured wood is normally the spring wood with the darker being summer wood.

Kapok Tree Photo By Chris Hibbard

From The Tallest To The Smallest

Some of the most impressive trees in the world in terms of height are the Californian Coast Redwood trees. Indeed among them is said to be the tallest tree in the world measuring 115.55 metres (378 feet 9 inches).

In contrast, the pygmy forests, which are also situated in California, in the Gulch State Park, North of San Francisco, are among the smallest in the world. The soil in the park has stunted the growth and some of the trees are only 15 centimetres (6 inches) high.

‘Trees are the wellsprings from which pour forth life, breath and health. Ignore them and they will still be generous but chop them down and we cut short our own mortality.


Meetings With Remarkable Trees’ by Thomas Pakenham is a wonderful book. Full of vivid pictures, it is an excellent accompaniment for anyone with an interest in life-preserving trees.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Meeting With Remarkable Trees from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Meeting With Remarkable Trees here.
For Germany: Meeting With Remarkable Trees.
For France: Meeting With Remarkable Trees.

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