Friday, October 2, 2020

Did You Know? The Tree Edition


Trees with moss covered roots in a forest with a carpet of orange leaves. The Otzaretta Forest, Spain

We’re going to play a game called “Did You Know?” in which I try to dazzle you with some surprising, and hopefully new-to-you, facts. In this edition of the game, trees are the subject. Here we go:

DID YOU KNOW that trees didn’t exist for the first 90% of Earth’s history?

According to, the timeline goes like this: Earth is 4.5 billion years old – 470 million years ago plants arrived on land, but they were mosses and algae – 420 million years ago vascular plants appeared, but they were small (under 3 feet) – after that, tens of millions of years passed before trees as we know them developed. Making them downright modern in the big picture of Earth.

A tree in Indonesia with carved out burial chambers for children.
DID YOU KNOW that there’s a place where they bury babies in trees?

In Tana Toraja, Indonesia, babies who die before they start teething are lovingly placed in hollowed-out holes of special trees. These trees can hold dozens of babies. The belief is that the tree will absorb the child’s spirit and gently send it on its way. For more, check out this article

DID YOU KNOW that there are six ginkgo trees that survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima?

 There is also a pear tree that lived through 9/11 at the World Trade Center and an elm that survived the Oklahoma City bombing. In Japan, the trees have become potent symbols of national resilience and are greatly honored and protected. The pear and elm here in the US have also been protected; but, unfortunately, they do not seem to hold a place in their nation’s heart as the ginkgoes do.

DID YOU KNOW that the fastest-growing hardwood tree is the Empress Splendor Tree?

A beautiful Empress Splendor tree in bloom by a lake.
The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized this beautiful tree (Paulownia tomentosa) as the fastest growing hardwood. It can mature in 7-10 years, is fire and insect resistant, and prefers being raised organically. And, according to, it produces 3-4 times the oxygen than other known tree species. It seems like this non-invasive species could be the perfect tree. Read more here.

DID YOU KNOW that there is a 1360-acre forest in India planted by one man? 

In 1979, when he was just 16 years old, Jaday Molai Payeng came across some snakes that had died on a riverbed. They had become stranded and succumbed to extreme heat because there was no shade for them to cool in. The sight of those unfortunate creatures compelled him to do something about de-forestation in his area. He began planting bamboo and moved up to trees and has been planting ever since. His forest (known as the Molai forest) now holds more than trees – deer, tiger and rhinoceros roam there. Truly a story of how one person can change the world. See him in his forest here.

A sign pointing the way to the Tree of Life in the distance.
DID YOU KNOW that there is a 400-year-old tree in Baharain that’s alone out in the desert?

Known as the Tree of Life, locals will tell you this mesquite tree stands where the Garden of Eden once was. It is on a 25-foot hilltop (the highest point in Bahrain), far away from any other trees or any sources of water. Scientists say it gets its water from an incredibly deep (over 100 ft.) taproot and other extremely far-reaching roots; but others say it comes from Enki, the god of water. 

A Old Tree In A Courtyard-The Chapel of Allouville-Bellefosse
DID YOU KNOW that there's a chapel in an oak tree in France?

Some say this is the oldest tree in France, and it certainly is quite old – perhaps 1,000 years. In the late 1600’s it was struck by lightning and, taking that as a sign from God, they built a church in it. For more on its story, read this.

DID YOU KNOW that the rarest tree in the world lives on a remote island in the South Pacific?

This starts out as a sad story but ends on a high note: On the very small and very remote Manawatāwhi island off the coast of New Zealand, sits a wild tree that is the last of its kind– a kaikōmako. At one time, there were plenty of kaikōmako trees on the island; but, in 1889 some thoughtful-but-unaware people decided to put a colony of goats on the islands to serve as a food source for shipwreck survivors (apparently shipwrecks were common enough for this to make sense). The goats ate all the trees but one. The last one only survived because it lived on an inaccessible cliff 700 feet over the ocean. In the decades since then, conservationists have had a series of setbacks trying to figure out how to save this species. But now, with the help of the Maori, they have saplings planted with great hopes. Learn more here.

Close-up of the trunk of a Sandbox Tree
DID YOU KNOW that there is a tree with potentially deadly explosive fruit? 

Also known as the “Dynamite Tree”, the sandbox tree (Hua crepitans) is a member of the spurge family that can be found in tropical parts of Central and South America (and in south Florida). It has nasty-looking spikes all over the trunk and poisonous sap and fruit. But the real clincher is the seed pods of this tree – they look like mini pumpkins and explode loudly when mature, sending pieces flying out at the speed of a bullet. You do not want to be nearby when that thing goes off. Learn more and watch one blow here.

DID YOU KNOW that there are more trees on Earth than there are stars in our galaxy?

Scientists estimate there could be as many as 200-400 billion stars in our galaxy. That is still way below the estimated one trillion trees on our planet. I first got this factoid from a blog on I encourage you to check them out – they are a Canadian company that plants ten trees for every product sold. That is truly a noble mission worth supporting.

DID YOU KNOW that there are trees that grow sideways? 

Trees bent over from the wind. Slope Point, New Zealand.
There is seemingly no end to stories about the resilience of trees. These trees in Slope Point, New Zealand are the epitome of such determination. With nothing standing between them and Antarctica, they have to deal with relentless, fierce wind from that frozen place. They also sit on cliffs above the water, which creates even more of a “whoosh” as the wind comes over the lip of the land. So, they’ve adapted and grow sideways now. I don't know how the sheep stay standing. See more here.

DID YOU KNOW that there is a tree that loves red underwear and pot?

There are trees that are considered sacred all over the planet, and often people leave offerings by such trees. However, there is only one that prefers gifts of red male underwear and cannabis – the Ghost Tree in Bagahi Kumhapur, India. Why does this pipal (Ficus religiosa) need such things? Who knows? It’s just a party animal, I guess. See it (and some other way cool trees) here.

A grey tree with a cartoon face dancing while holding a beer and a cigarette.
Party Animal Tree


                    Take care out there.

                                            Submitted by Pam.

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