Remember this image back from your high school Biology textbooks? It probably had lots more technical words like ‘dicot’, ‘cambium’. Essentially, the inner xylem tube transports water from the roots to the leaves while the outer phloem tube transports glucose from the leaves to all parts of the plant. But that’s not all to the science in trees.
What is not typically included is the bark, the outermost layer, scientifically known as cork. Cork is basically dead – it was not typically regarded as one of the need-to-know things. But as a kid, I was fascinated with bark. I could not see xylem nor phloem, what I saw was variations of thick crusty wood to sleek pillars of brown.
Some trees had paper-thin layers of gently peeling bark, like skin from fingernails that you roll around with your thumb.
Think bark is useless? Think again. In Portugal, the bark of oak trees has been stripped every ten years to make cork stoppers for bottles of champagne and wine. There is art in stripping the bark without harming the tree which can live up to two hundred years. Find out more at http://www.wineanorak.com/corks/howcorkismade.htm
Cinnamon is a common spice used in India where the inner bark is shaved off and dried. It is then used in many dishes to add flavour and smell. Find out how the bark is cut and dried at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFbSDFhyfKw
The inner cambium of the bark in Pine trees are sources of nutrition and could be fried and eaten if there are no other sources of food available. Find out more at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nos7t-beKKE&t=125s
These are the layers that there are to bark. Each of the layers have a different characteristic giving rise to different uses. Dendrochronology is the science of studying tree rings and dating them to the year that they were formed to understand the atmospheric conditions of the period of growth. Each ring represents one year of growth, with the outermost layer being the youngest. You could find out more information about the University of Arizona, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research from http://ltrr.arizona.edu/
So next time remember, there is more to trees than just green and brown decoration.
What are your thoughts?
A silly question a day keeps life interesting,