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Did you know that only a small part of a tree is biologically alive?

Por: Ecoo sfera24 de noviembre de 2022

It could be said that of the total percentage of a tree, very little of it is actually alive.

Trees are the largest plant beings that exist, not only because of their great height but also because their roots extend meters deep and even interconnect with each other to form the most amazing network of all nature. Contradictorily, a large part of the trees are actually dead cells, that is, parts of them are inactive matter that is part of a living network.

Only a very small percentage of a mature tree is biologically alive, the rest is a defense mechanism against external agents that ensures the life of the tree, but cannot necessarily be considered the living matter. The very little woody volume of all that we observe in a tree trunk is made up of metabolized tissue. To understand this better, we must first understand the anatomy of arboreal beings.

Anatomy of a tree

Like all living things, trees are complex and possess a large number of elements of which some are biologically active and some are not. But it could be said that all components can be pigeonholed into three main categories:

Crown: The crown is located at the top of the trees and comprises the leaves, branches, and flowers or fruits.

Trunk: The main function of the trunk is to serve as a kind of transport route for all the nutrients coming from the roots to reach the crown. It also has a large number of important anatomical elements such as bark, cambium, sapwood, and heartwood.

Roots: These are the connections that anchor the tree to solid ground and are responsible for collecting all the nutrients from the soil to keep the tree alive.

Much of the tree is dead matter

Normally, when we think of trees, we make the mistake of reducing them to their trunks. This is perhaps because it is the most visible part to us, but strangely enough, most of the trunk is not alive. To begin with, the most exposed bark is made up of non-living cells, as opposed to the interior of the trunk which does have living cells.

The main function of the bark is precisely to protect the cambium, the thin layer of living cells inside the trunk is called, which is responsible for keeping the tree functioning. The cambium is the one that generates new layers towards the outside, forming new rings every year to protect the living cells in the center.

It is a never-ending cycle that begins with the creation of cells for rapid growth that later become part of the ranks of the army of dormant matter that functions as a protective shield against insects and diseases. In this way the tree remains in constant protection, drawing on the balance between life and death to continue growing healthily.

The amazing thing is that dormant cells are not considered dead matter, as they are still part of the life cycle. It is not until the wood is separated from the tree that it is considered the dead matter.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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