Tree Biology

Trees are extremely successful organisms. With more than 80,000 species growing worldwide, they range in size from tiny Arctic Willows a few centimetres high through to giant Redwoods over 100 metres tall.

Trees are a very diverse group and have evolved from many distinct ancestors over millions of years.

Plants do not grow in isolation. They must compete with other plants from their own and different species for space, water, nutrients and light.

The basic body plan, leaf shape and size, type of bark, reproductive strategy and all the other components of their life strategy have all evolved to serve some purpose which makes that particular tree species successful in the struggle for life in its environment.

What the trees that make it are good at is competing for light as they can hold their leaves above other plants and shade them out.

This section gives a brief overview about the biology of trees and what the features are that make them amongst the largest and most successful land organisms on Earth.

We aim to convince you that trees are extremely complicated organisms with a myriad of biological processes occurring in them and boasting a mechanical structure that is the envy of many engineers and architects.

More: Three excellent modern books to enjoy on the structure and function of trees are:

  • "Trees" by Roland Ennos (2001) published by the Natural History Museum;
  • "Trees: their Natural History" by Peter Thomas (2000) Cambridge University Press.
  • "The Secret Life of Trees" by Colin Tudge (2005) Penguin