Trees / by Philip Taylor

Question: Do trees grow out of the ground or do they grow out of the sky? 

The way their roots grip into and tunnel through the soil gives the impression that they grow upward toward the sky, building themselves from raw materials in the ground as they mature from germination to adulthood. This thinking is half the story. Trees, as with other plants, absorb lots of water with their roots, which they get from the ground. Oxygen and hydrogen - H2O - indeed make up about 48% of a tree. Roughly 2% of a tree is made up of rarer elements, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The availability of these rarer elements often limits the way trees behave....and there are thousands of academic papers and trillions of dollars of GDP predicated on understanding how nutrients affect plants, i.e. industrial agriculture. Even the backyard or window gardener can realize the power nutrients, just look for 'N-P-K' on the next bag of fertilizer you buy. These critical nutrients [Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (K)]. among others, are balanced in the right proportion for your plants. This is why MiracleGrow is called MiracleGrow....but its not a miracle, its biology. Ok, enough on nutrients.

The other half of a tree is made of gas, or as I like to see it, the sky.  Trees have the power to use invisible gas of the atmosphere to build themselves. They absorb carbon dioxide into their leaves through stomata to make glucose, and from glucose they construct leaves, trunks, roots, apples, bananas, almonds, strawberries, mangos, etc. etc. etc. This is photosynthesis for reals, not some formula that is taught out of context in 2nd, 4th, 7th and 11th grade. 

As a side I've always thought it strange that trees never know what they look like, despite being fully alive. Imagine life without eyeballs, living without seeing. The simple life I suppose. 

So, next time you see a tree, which will be soon, appreciate that it makes itself out of gas. The picture is a sycamore and two pignut hickories on my grandmother's property in Maryland, where I love to lay in the moss and stare into the sky.

#tree #wood #nature #arbor #life #carbon #sky