Nature and Nurture

Jamaica - Pictures by Ben Erwin

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a woody trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. In looser senses, the taller palms, the tree ferns, bananas and bamboos are also trees. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. The tallest known tree, a coast redwood named Hyperion, stands 115.6 m (379 ft) high. Trees have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are just over 3 trillion mature trees in the world.

A tree typically has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground by the trunk. This trunk typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from one part of the tree to another. For most trees it is surrounded by a layer of bark which serves as a protective barrier. Below the ground, the roots branch and spread out widely; they serve to anchor the tree and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Above ground, the branches divide into smaller branches and shoots. The shoots typically bear leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development. Flowers and fruit may also be present, but some trees, such as conifers, instead have pollen cones and seed cones; others, such as tree ferns, produce spores instead.

Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues. Trees and forests provide a habitat for many species of animals and plants. Tropical rainforests are one of the most biodiverse habitats in the world. Trees provide shade and shelter, timber for construction, fuel for cooking and heating, and fruit for food as well as having many other uses. In parts of the world, forests are shrinking as trees are cleared to increase the amount of land available for agriculture. Read more ...

Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Rainbow Eucalyptus or Eucalyptus Deglupta are the only species of eucalyptus that grow in the northern hemisphere. They are very tall trees found in tropical forests and the jungles of the Hawaiian Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippine Islands, and sometimes in southern Florida, Texas, and California. It is one of only four eucalypt species out of more than seven hundred that do not occur in Australia. It is characterized by multi-colored bark. Read more.

The color phenomenon is caused by patches of bark peeling off at different times - the colors indicating the age of the tree. A newly shed outer bark reveals bright greens which darken over time morphing into shades of blues and purples which in turn change to orange and red.

Mythology and Religion

Trees hold great fascination for humanity from their beauty, symbology, and a connectedness to nature. The forest has been the backdrop for poetry, stories, and art since ancient times. Mythologies always mention trees, often linking them symbolically to Creation and the World Tree in one design or another.


Trees have been venerated since time immemorial. In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is a central cosmic tree whose roots and branches extend to various worlds. Various creatures live on it.

To the ancient Celts, certain trees, especially the oak, ash and thorn, held special significance as providing fuel, building materials, ornamental objects and weaponry.

Other cultures have similarly revered trees, often linking the lives and fortunes of individuals to them or using them as oracles.

In Greek mythology, dryads were believed to be shy nymphs who inhabited trees.

The Oubangui people of west Africa plant a tree when a child is born. As the tree flourishes, so does the child but if the tree fails to thrive, the health of the child is considered at risk. When it flowers it is time for marriage. Gifts are left at the tree periodically and when the individual dies, their spirit is believed to live on in the tree.

Trees have their roots in the ground and their trunk and branches extended towards the sky. This concept is found in many of the world's religions as a tree which links the underworld and the earth and holds up the heavens.

In India, Kalpavriksha is a wish-fulfilling tree, one of the nine jewels that emerged from the primitive ocean. Icons are placed beneath it to be worshipped, tree nymphs inhabit the branches and it grants favors to the devout who tie threads round the trunk.

Democracy started in North America when the Great Peacemaker formed the Iroquois Confederacy, inspiring the warriors of the original five American nations to bury their weapons under the Tree of Peace, an eastern white pine (Pinus strobus).

In the creation story in the Bible, the tree of life and the knowledge of good and evil was planted by God in the Garden of Eden.

Sacred groves exist in China, India, Africa and elsewhere. They are places where the deities live and where all the living things are either sacred or are companions of the gods. Folklore lays down the supernatural penalties that will result if desecration takes place for example by the felling of trees. Because of their protected status, sacred groves may be the only relicts of ancient forest and have a biodiversity much greater than the surrounding area. Some Ancient Indian tree deities, such as Puliyidaivalaiyamman, the Tamil deity of the tamarind tree, or Kadambariyamman, associated with the kadamba tree were seen as manifestations of a goddess who offers her blessings by giving fruits in abundance.

Trees in Alchemy

Tree of Life

We experience in the alchemy of time and consciousness.

Sacred Geometry

In the News ...

Tropical trees are living time capsules of human history   PhysOrg - February 6, 2020
In a new article published in Trends in Plant Science, an international team of scientists presents the combined use of dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating and isotopic and genetic analysis as a means of investigating the effects of human activities on forest disturbances and the growth dynamics of tropical tree species. The study presents the potential applicability of these methods for investigating prehistoric, historical and industrial periods in tropical forests around the world and suggests that they have the potential to detect time-transgressive anthropogenic threats, insights that can inform and guide conservation priorities in these rapidly disappearing environments.

Secrets of '1,000-year-old trees' unlocked - by making protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought   BBC - January 14, 2020
And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over. The ginkgo can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.

A 16-Million-Year-Old Tree Tells a Deep Story of the Passage of Time   Smithsonian - November 25, 2019
Each yearly delineation on the sequoiaÕs surface is a small part of a far grander story that ties together all of life on Earth. Scientists know this as Deep Time. ItÕs not just on the scale of centuries, millennia, epochs, or periods, but the ongoing flow that goes back to the origins of our universe, the formation of the Earth, and the evolution of all life, up through this present moment. ItÕs the backdrop for everything we see around us today, and it can be understood through techniques as different as absolute dating of radioactive minerals and counting the rings of a prehistoric tree. Each part informs the whole.

North Carolina Bald Cypresses Are Among the WorldÕs Oldest Trees   Smithsonian - May 9, 2019

Researchers document the oldest known trees in eastern North America   PhysOrg - May 9, 2019

Researchers document the oldest known trees in eastern North America   PhysOrg - May 9, 2019
A recently documented stand of bald cypress trees in North Carolina, including one tree at least 2,624 years old, are the oldest known living trees in eastern North America and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.

Climate change is giving old trees a growth spurt   PhysOrg - May 9, 2019
Larch trees in the permafrost forests of northeastern China - the northernmost tree species on Earth - are growing faster as a result of climate change, according to new research.

Urban trees 'live fast, die young' compared to those in rural forests   PhysOrg - May 9, 2019

Fossils from the world's oldest trees reveal complex anatomy never seen before   PhysOrg - October 23, 2017

The first trees to have ever grown on Earth were also the most complex, new research has revealed. Fossils from a 374-million-year-old tree found in north-west China have revealed an interconnected web of woody strands within the trunk of the tree that is much more intricate than that of the trees we see around us today.The strands, known as xylem, are responsible for conducting water from a tree's roots to its branches and leaves. In the most familiar trees the xylem forms a single cylinder to which new growth is added in rings year by year just under the bark. In other trees, notably palms, xylem is formed in strands embedded in softer tissues throughout the trunk.

Forest Fires Stoke Record Loss in World Tree Cover   Scientific American - October 23, 2017
Forest fires in Brazil and Indonesia contributed to a record loss in global tree cover in 2016, equivalent to the size of New Zealand, that could accelerate deforestation blamed for climate change, an independent forest monitoring network. Man-made global warming increased the risks of wildfires by adding to extreme heat and droughts in some regions, according to Global Forest Watch (GFW). This year, California and Portugal have been among places suffering deadly blazes.

World is home to '60,000 tree species'   BBC - April 5, 2017
Data revealed that Brazil was the nation with the greatest number of tree species, home to 8,715 varieties. Apart from the polar regions, which have no trees, the near-Arctic region of North America had the fewest number of species, with less than 1,400. Another fact to emerge from the data was that more than half of the species (58%) were only found in one country, suggesting that they were vulnerable to potential threats, such as deforestation from extreme weather events or human activity. About 300 species have been identified as critically endangered as they had fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild.

'Tree Man' Has Surgery: What Causes This Rare Condition?   Live Science - January 10, 2017

A 27-year-old man in Bangladesh known as the "tree man" recently underwent surgery to remove the extensive, wood-like warts that covered his hands and feet. But what causes this rare disease? Over the past year, the man, Abul Bajandar, has undergone 16 surgeries to remove 11 lbs. (5 kilograms) of the unusual growths from his hands and feet, according toAgence France-Presse (AFP). Prior to the surgery, the growths were so extensive that Bajandar could not feed himself or hold his daughter.

Pioneer Cabin Tree in California felled by storms   BBC - January 9, 2017
Storms in California have toppled one of America's most famous trees - the Pioneer Cabin Tree. The giant sequoia was known for having a hole cut through its trunk - big enough for a car to drive through. The tree, estimated to be more than one thousand years old, was felled by the strongest storm to have hit the area in more than a decade. California and Nevada have been hit by unusually high rainfall levels, leading to flooding and falling trees.

What Is the Oldest Tree in the World?   Live Science - August 23, 2016

The planet's trees have seen plenty of history pass by their trunks. In fact, they began to populate Earth 385 million years ago, toward the end of the Devonian period. Considered living historical records, the organisms can withstand generations of development and change. But which tree has been around the longest? Until 2013, the oldest individual tree in the world was Methuselah, a 4,845-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in the White Mountains of California. Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research Group then announced the age of another P. longaeva also located in the White Mountains - this one 5,062 years old.

Do Trees Sleep at Night?   Live Science - May 24, 2016

After a long a long day of photosynthesizing, do trees fall asleep? It depends on how you define "sleep," but trees do relax their branches at night, which might be a sign of snoozing, scientists said. In the only reported study to look at tree siestas, researchers set up lasers that measured the movements of two silver birch trees (Betula pendula) at night. One tree was in Finland and the other in Austria, and both were monitored from dusk until morning on dry, windless nights in September. This was close to the solar equinox, when daylight and nighttime are about equal.

Trees that can walk up to 20 meters a year   BBC - December 18, 2015
It takes a whole day to travel from Ecuador's capital, Quito, to the heart of the Unesco Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, some 100km to the southeast. The journey entails three hours by car to the edge of the forest, and then anywhere from seven to 15 hours by boat, mule and foot, mostly uphill and on a muddy road, to reach the interior. But the effort is worth it, considering you wind up in the middle of a pristine forest that houses a rather unusual find: walking palm trees.

Earth's trees number 'three trillion'   BBC - September 3, 2015
There are just over three trillion trees on Earth, according to a new assessment. The figure is eight times as big as the previous best estimate, which counted perhaps 400 billion at most.

How to make trees grow bigger and quicker   Science Daily - April 16, 2015
Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered a way to make trees grow bigger and faster, which could increase supplies of renewable resources and help trees cope with the effects of climate change. The genes, called PXY and CLE, control the growth of a tree trunk. When over-expressed, making them more active than in their normal state, the trees grew twice as fast as normal and were taller, wider and had more leaves.

World's Oldest Trees: 3,000 to 9,500 Years Old   The Epoch Times - August 19, 2014

1. Norway Spruce, Sweden
2. Methuselah, Bristlecone Pine, California
3. Llangernyw Yew, Wales
4. Sarv-e Abar, Cypress, Iran
5. The General Sherman Tree, Sequoia, California
6. The Senator, Bald Cypress, Florida
7. Te Matua Ngahere, Kauri, New Zealand
8. Jomon Sugi, Japan
9. Pando, Quaking Aspens, Utah

Pine Tree Yields Longest Genome Ever Sequenced   Live Science - March 22, 2014
Scientists say they've generated the longest genome sequence to date, unraveling the genetic code of the loblolly pine tree. Conifers have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and they have some of the biggest genomes of all living things. Native to the U.S. Southeast, the loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) can grow over 100 feet (30 meters) tall and it has a lengthy genome to match, with 23 billion base pairs. That's more than seven times the size of the human genome, which has 3 billion base pairs. (These pairs form sequences called genes that tell cells how to make proteins.)

180 million-year-old fossilized fern nearly identical to modern relative   PhysOrg - March 21, 2014
A trio of researchers in Sweden has unearthed a fossilized fern that has been dated to 180 million years ago, that remarkably, is in near pristine condition. The calcified stem of a royal fern dating back to the early Jurassic period was apparently preserved by mineral precipitation from hydrothermal brines as they rapidly crystalized, trapping the fern, which was clearly alive at the time, encasing it in an airtight environment. Although very small (just 5.8 x 4.1 cm) the fossil was so well preserved that the researchers were still able to make out cell cytoplasm, nuclei and even chromosomes.

Iconic Australasian trees found as fossils in South America   PhysOrg - January 9, 2014
Today in Australia they call it Kauri, in Asia they call it Dammar, and in South America it does not exist at all unless planted there; but 52 million years ago the giant coniferous evergreen tree known to botanists as Agathis thrived in the Patagonian region of Argentina, according to an international team of paleobotanists, who have found numerous fossilized remains there. These spectacular fossils reveal that Agathis is old and had a huge range that no one knew about from Australia to South America across Antarctica.

Weird Forests Once Sprouted in Antarctica   Live Science - November 2, 2013
Strange forests with some features of today's tropical trees once grew in Antarctica, new research finds. Some 250 million years ago, during the late Permian and early Triassic, the world was a greenhouse, much hotter than it is today. Forests carpeted a non-icy Antarctic. But Antarctica was still at a high latitude, meaning that just as today, the land is bathed in round-the-clock darkness during winter and 24/7 light in the summer.

Gold in trees leads to hidden deposits   BBC - October 22, 2013
Money might not grow on trees, but scientists have confirmed that gold is found in the leaves of some plants. Researchers from Australia say that the presence of the particles in a eucalyptus tree's foliage indicates that deposits are buried many metres below. They believe that the discovery offers a new way to locate the sought-after metal in difficult-to-reach locations.

Study: Just 227 tree species dominate Amazon landscape   BBC - October 17, 2013
Despite being home to about 16,000 tree species, just 227 "hyperdominant" species account for half of Amazonia's total trees, a study suggests.

Poland's Mysterious Crooked Forest   Discovery - June 29, 2011
In a tiny corner of western Poland a forest of about 400 pine trees grow with a 90 degree bend at the base of their trunks - all bent northward. Surrounded by a larger forest of straight growing pine trees this collection of curved trees, or "Crooked Forest," is a mystery. Planted around 1930, the trees managed to grow for seven to 10 years before getting held down, in what is understood to have been human mechanical intervention. Though why exactly the original tree farmers wanted so many crooked trees is unknown.

Seeing the forest through the trees   PhysOrg - February 21, 2011
University of Arizona researcher Brian Enquist and his colleagues have discovered the secret of patterns within individual trees that can be used to describe the structure and functioning of the world's forests. Imagine you are walking through a forest. All around you are trees of different species, age, size and height. It looks pretty random, right? Wrong. Brian Enquist of the department of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona and his team have discovered a secret in the trees: Hidden among and within the architecture of the branches are fundamental rules that link the size, shape, age and in fact everything about a single tree to all the trees in a forest. This rule or code reoccurs as the tree grows, creating a fractal - a repeating pattern - like a spiral of daughter branches emanating from the mother branch or tree trunk. These rules hold true across species, so the ratios of lengths and radii of a mother branch to daughter branches are the same for almost all trees.

Giant Sequoias Yield Longest Fire History from Tree Rings   Science Daily - April 21, 2010
A 3,000-year record from 52 of the world's oldest trees shows that California's western Sierra Nevada was droughty and often fiery from 800 to 1300, according to new research. Scientists reconstructed the region's history of fire by dating fire scars on ancient giant sequoia trees, Sequoiadendron giganteum, in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park. Individual giant sequoias can live more than 3,000 years and are considered the world's largest trees by volume.

This Tree's a Lady!   Live Science - February 4, 2010

Scientists have discovered the female sex hormone progesterone in a walnut tree, shaking up what's known about the different between plants and animals. Until now, scientists thought that only animals could make progesterone. A steroid hormone secreted by the ovaries, progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy and maintains pregnancy. A synthetic version, progestin, is used in birth control pills and other medications.

Trees evolved camouflage defense against long extinct predator: First evidence of camouflage defense in plants   PhysOrg - July 22, 2009

Many animal species such as snakes, insects and fish have evolved camouflage defenses to deter attack from their predators. However research published in New Phytologist has discovered that trees in New Zealand have evolved a similar defense to protect themselves from extinct giant birds, providing the first evidence of this strategy in plant life.

Ancient trees recorded in mines BBC - September 9, 2008

Spectacular fossil forests have been found in the coal mines of Illinois by a US-UK team of researchers. The group reported one discovery last year, but has since identified a further five examples. The ancient vegetation - now turned to rock - is visible in the ceilings of mines covering thousands of hectares. These were among the first forests to evolve on the planet.

Study: Tree Leaves Have Built-In Thermostat Live Science - June 11, 2008
Although Native Americans used to burn forests to farm, such practices were nowhere close to damaging "as the drastic deforestation that came with the Europeans," Roddick said. The colonists, like the Native Americans, cleared forests to farm, and felled trees for their timbers as well. "White pine was used a lot for shipbuilding," he explained. As deforestation leveled native trees, so too have infestations of disease and insects decimated forests.


Tree worship (dendrolatry) refers to the tendency of many societies throughout history to worship or otherwise mythologize trees. Trees have played an important role in many of the world's mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages. Human beings, observing the growth and death of trees, the elasticity of their branches, the sensitivity and the annual decay and revival of their foliage, see them as powerful symbols of growth, decay and resurrection. The most ancient cross-cultural symbolic representation of the universe's construction is the world tree.

Yggdrasil - The World Tree

The image of the Tree of Life is also a favorite in many mythologies. Various forms of trees of life also appear in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility. These often hold cultural and religious significance to the peoples for whom they appear. For them, it may also strongly be connected with the motif of the world tree.

Other examples of trees featured in mythology are the Banyan and the Peepal trees in Hinduism, and the modern tradition of the Christmas Tree in Germanic mythology, the Tree of Knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, and the Bodhi tree in Buddhism.

In folk religion and folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits. Historical Druidism as well as Germanic paganism appear to have involved cultic practice in sacred groves, especially the oak. The term druid itself possibly derives from the Celtic word for oak.

Trees are a necessary attribute of the archetypical locus amoenus in all cultures. Already the Egyptian Book of the Dead mentions sycomores as part of the scenery where the soul of the deceased finds blissful repose.

Thoth and Seshat Wrote a Program in Which we Experience

The evidence for tree-worship is almost unmanageably large, and since comparative studies do not as yet permit a concise and conclusive synopsis of the subject, this article will confine itself to some of the more prominent characteristics.


Spiritually, spirits and magic are linked to the mystical properties of trees.

On an emotional level, trees are often calming and 'speak' to people.

The Circle of Life

Reality is a consciousness hologram created by electromagnetic energy.

Trees were created at the beginning of the Hologram.

Trees hold the Illusion in place.

Trees connect day and night and above and below.

The Alchemy of Time

The Alchemy of Consciousness


Paleontology: Tree Fossils

Nature Spirits