I love to read and try to fit in a few pages whenever I can — while I brush my teeth, eat my lunch, or ride the exercise bike are just a few ways. While I much prefer fiction to nonfiction (I like to escape reality), I often learn something new no matter what I am reading. Just recently, I read something about aspen trees that I couldn’t believe, and sure enough, when I looked it up, it was true! From there, my mind began pondering other amazing tree facts.
Here is the quaking aspen fact that really surprised me: one aspen tree (Populus tremuloides) is actually only a small part of a larger organism. The quaking aspen is considered the largest living organism, growing in clones that reproduce primarily by sending up shoots and suckers from their roots. The largest and oldest known aspen clone is called the Pando clone in the Fishlake National Forest in southern Utah. It is over 100 acres in size and weighs more than 14 million pounds. That is more than 40 times the weight of the world’s largest animal, the blue whale. It has been aged at 80,000 years, although 5,000- to 10,000 year-old clones are more common. The aspen’s leaves tremble with the slightest breeze, which is why it is called quaking or trembling aspen.
The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), also known as California redwoods, is found in California and Oregon. Oddly enough, these 300-foot tall trees produce very small cones, typically three-fourths to 1-inch long. The redwood seeds are packed underneath the scales of the cones, and it takes about 100,000 redwood seeds to equal one pound. While most of the trees we commonly see in Ohio have bark a half inch to 1 inch thick, the redwood can have bark up to 1 foot thick!
The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L.) is commonly found in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It is the most extensively grown and used nut in the world. Unlike the small cones of the coast redwood, the coconut palm seed is about 6 inches in diameter, round, brown and hairy. Inside is a thin, white, fleshy “meat” that is nutritive tissue. This seed, which you probably know as a “coconut,” is protected by a thick, fibrous, green husk that floats. Fruit and husk together measure about 15 inches long and 12 inches wide. The ability to float means that the coconut can move around in rivers and oceans for a while without too much damage. One coconut palm can produce as many as 100 coconuts a year.
Trees and forests are amazing, benefiting us in many ways. We know trees have value as lumber — just look around your home and see all of the products that are made with wood. Trees give us nuts, fruit, shade and oxygen. They save us on heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. They help reduce stormwater runoff and provide homes for wildlife.
As you look around central Ohio you can see a pleasant mix of agricultural land mixed with woodlands. Did you know that 31 percent of Ohio is forested and that 87 percent of Ohio’s forests are owned by private woodland owners? Ninety six percent of Ohio’s forests are composed of deciduous trees, meaning they shed their leaves annually, and the remaining four percent are conifers. If you are as amazed by trees as I am, you can learn more through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Forestry at forestry.ohiodnr.gov and the U.S. Forest Service at www.fs.fed.us.
The Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District’s annual tree and shrub sale is going on now. You can find the order form as well as plenty of great things going on in the world of conservation by visiting our website at www.delawareswcd.org or by stopping by our office at 557 A Sunbury Road in Delaware.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.
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