Tree fun facts

These interesting facts have been researched since 2019, as part of the tree identification project in Cedars Park.

General

  • Following thousands of additions in recent years, over 70,000 tree species are confirmed to exist worldwide, which is quite amazing! Sadly, global warming currently threatens around 18,000.

  • We produce the carbon dioxide that trees breathe. In return, they give us the oxygen that we breathe. Nature is amazing!

  • Ivy, which commonly grows on trees, was often featured on premises to indicate that they made or sold beer.

Nepotistic trees

Research at Cambridge University Botanic Garden found that enzymes and mycorrhizal fungi that grow around the roots of trees (mycelium) enable trees to share carbon and communicate with each other.

Trees can nourish each other through billions of gossamer-fine tubes — hyphae — that are created by fungi around their roots. These networks allow trees as far as 60ft apart to collaborate. They allow 'mother' trees to feed saplings with carbon, nitrogen and water as they struggle in the shade beneath high canopies.

While the mother trees feed saplings of all species, they feed rather more to saplings of their own species — and give the most food to those that are close relations. Studies show that related pairs of trees recognise the root tips of their kin among the root tips of unrelated trees, enabling a kind of arboreal nepotism to thrive among the Norwegian pines.

Daily Mail, 1 September 2020

Trees are our ancestors!

Alder

  • Symbolises 'Care', 'Generosity', 'Strength in Battle'.

  • Associated with the Goddess of Spinning, as makes good dye.

  • Celtics associated it with death, and many feared the tree because it bleeds when cut.

  • Used to make measuring rods for corpses and coffins.

  • Venice was built with this tree for the piling and some of them are 1200 years old.

  • Historically, alder trees were used to make gunpowder and shields.

Apple

  • 'Peace' (China), 'Love', 'Trust', 'Health', 'Youth', 'Beauty', 'Joy', 'Magic', 'Immortality'.

  • In Egremont in the Lake District, there is an annual Crab Fair, which began in 1267 by the Lord of Egremont when he gave away crab apples from his orchard to locals.

Aspen

  • 'Ascent', 'Protection', 'Overcoming Fear'.

  • It is believed that Aspen sticks can kill vampires and werewolves.

  • The Aspen trees in Sweden are the main sustainable source for the world's boxed matches.

  • Red Indians used Aspen leaves to treat burns, swollen joints and headache, as well as bark for stomach and urinary infections.

Ash

  • 'Sacrifice', 'Higher Awareness'.

Beech

  • 'Prosperity', 'Protection and Nurture', 'Knowledge', 'Sustenance', 'Preservation'.

  • Associated with femininity.

  • The scientific name, Fagus, was the Celtic god of Beeches.

  • Perfect for smoking herrings, and the nuts may be a good coffee substitute.

  • Recently discovered by National Geographic researchers, the southernmost tree in the world, located in Cape Horn, Chile, is a Magellan's Beech (Nothofagus betuloides). Sir Joseph Banks collected a specimen of the tree from the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago in South America in 1769, during Captain James Cook's first voyage. It was thought to be extinct so far south, until its recent rediscovery.

Birch

  • 'Growth' and 'Renewal' (Celts), 'Meekness', 'Protection', 'Inception', 'New Beginnings'.

Cedar

  • The name of the Cederberg region in South Africa — the only place in the world where Rooibos is grown — comes from Widdringtonia cedarbergensis, the former scientific name for the Clanwilliam cedar, a rare species endemic to the region. However, this tree actually belongs to the cypress family.

Chestnut

  • 'Luxury'.

  • Horse Chestnuts are thought to have originated from the Ottoman Empire, and were ground up and fed to horses as a stimulant, making their coats shine, and as a cough remedy.

  • The magnificent ancient carved beams of Westminster Hall's roof are made of chestnut (commissioned by King Richard II).

Cork

  • 'Freedom' and 'Honour' (Ancient Greece).

Cypress

  • 'Death', 'Despair', 'Mourning'.

  • In contrast, it is a Turkish symbol of 'Life' and 'Immortality'.

  • When Assyrian youth Cyparissus accidentally killed his pet stag, the Gods took pity and turned him into this tree.

Elm

  • 'Dignity', 'Melancholy', 'Death', 'Communication', 'Relationships'.

  • Often used for coffins.

  • In Scandinavian and Germanic mythology, it created the first woman.

  • An ancient Elm tree (known as l'Ormeteau-Ferre) was chosen at Gisors in Normandy, on the Epte River as a meeting point between the French King and the Norman Duke, at the area called the Vexin — the Vikings had arrived in the 9th century to siege Paris, and by the 10th century had created Normandy under Rolt, the Dane, to settle there. King Philip Augustus had the tree cut down as negotiations for territory between Henry II were at an end (Kings John and Henry had controlled the Norman Barons).

Fir

  • 'Time'.

  • Evergreens symbolised eternal life in Ancient Egypt and China.

  • The Druids thought they represented 'Truth' as they were strong and straight.

  • Scandinavian legend of a boy lost on Christmas Eve and found under a Fir tree created the Christmas Tree tradition, as the ice on them shone in the sunlight to find the boy. Christmas Trees then came to Germany and to Britain in the 19th century.

Hawthorn

  • Some Christians believe that a crown of Hawthorn branches were stabbed into Jesus Christ's head on his Crucifixion.

  • A Hawthorn in Bristol has been turned into a 'Wishing Tree' during the COVID-19 pandemic, on which ribbons have been placed in memory of those who have died from the virus.

  • Traditionally associated with Fairies, and sometimes Witches. It is said that if you sleep under a Hawthorn, you may be whisked away by Fairies.

Hazel

  • 'Reconciliation'.

  • Iron Age man believed Hazels offered wisdom and inspiration.

  • Branches were used to protect against evil spirits and still for water divining.

  • In Irish, Norse and Roman mythology, it is known as the 'Tree of Knowledge'.

Holly

  • 'Foresight', 'Truth', 'Fertility'.

  • Associated with fire.

  • It is considered unlucky to cut down this tree.

  • Romans sent boughs of holly to friends during Saturnalia winter festivals.

  • Druids wore in the hair to ward off evil spirits.

  • According to some old tales, Hollies scare off evil spirits and witches.

Hornbeam

  • 'Strength', 'Optimism', both 'Meekness' and 'Confidence'!

  • Hornbeam wood is the strongest of all trees in Europe.

  • It is also known as Ironwood due to its hardness.

  • 'Horn' in the name is referring to the rugged and horny texture, although it could be that this name is from the Old English word horn, meaning 'hard' (due to the tree's strength).

  • Beam was the Old English word for 'tree'.

  • Its drooping fruits are known as 'samaras'.

  • Hornbeam wood was used for wheels, screws, and butchers' chopping boards.

  • Drinks containing hornbeam extracts are believed to energise.

  • The leaves can be used to treat wounds.

Larch

  • 'Audacity', 'Boldness', 'Connection with the Earth'.

  • Eurasian Shamanists regarded it as the 'world tree'.

  • Many Viking ships were made of Siberian Larch, as well as many of Russia's oldest buildings.

  • The Shigir Idol, the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world, is made of Larch.

Laurel

  • Mountain Nymph Daphne was pursued in Arcadia by the god Apollo — she pleaded with Mother Earth for help and was turned into a Laurel.

Lime

  • 'Conjugal Love', 'Romance', 'Tree of Lovers', 'Truth', 'Fairness', 'Justice', 'Liberty'.

  • Sacred tree in Slavic mythology, thought to protect against lightning strikes and bad luck.

  • Germanic judicial cases were tried underneath Lime trees, due to some of their symbolisms.

  • Lime fibres were used for Bronze Age clothing.

  • Germanic tribes made limewood shields.

Maidenhair (Ginkgo)

  • 'Bearer of Hope' (Japan), 'Survivor', 'Living Fossil'

  • Only surviving member of ancient tree groups before conifers.

  • Used in medicine since very early human history.

  • Carbon impressions of the leaves have been found in fossilised rocks from the Permian Period (290–248 million years ago). Some of the best fossils are from the Jurassic Strata of North Yorkshire.

  • The tree's scientific name, Ginkgo biloba, means 'Bi-lobed Silver Apricot', after translation from Chinese and Latin ('Ginkgo' comes from the Chinese 'Yinxing').

  • Six Maidenhair trees in Hiroshima, Japan are still alive today after being atomic-bombed in 1945.

Magnolia

  • Since Magnolia emarginata (the Northern Haiti Magnolia) was first discovered in 1925, it went missing for 97 years and the species was considered to be 'possibly extinct'. However, a conservation team rediscovered the species in 2022 in Haiti, where it is believed that only 1% of original forests remain.

Maple

  • 'Reserve', 'Strength', 'Endurance'.

  • Prized by the Romans for carving.

  • Named by the Anglo-Saxons.

Mistletoe

  • 'Romance', 'Fertility'.

  • It is a Christmas tradition to kiss under these branches.

  • Some believe that this tree came from the moon.

  • The Celtic Druids of the 1st century administered it to humans and other animals to improve fertility.

Monkey Puzzle

  • 'Conundrums', 'Adventure'.

  • In a graveyard, it prevents the devil from joining a burial.

  • Originally known as Chilean Pine, the tree was named Monkey Puzzle in the 19th century after Charles Auston saw a young tree in 1850 and commented 'it would puzzle a monkey to climb that'.

  • The trees can withstand intense heat, such as from lava and bushfires.

Mulberry

  • 'Wisdom', 'Appreciation for the Earth'.

  • Buddhist books were made from its bark, and dry wood is used for smoking meats.

Oak

  • 'Strength', 'Endurance', 'Stability', 'Luck'.

  • First appeared 65 million years ago.

  • It is the tree species most likely to be struck by lightning.

  • Associated with Norse and Finnish Thunder Gods, Thor and Jumala, as well as the Roman Jupiter and Greek Zeus.

  • Sacred to the Druids.

  • Bronze Age henges (ceremonial oak rings) found in Norfolk have been dated 2049 BC.

  • The Royal Navy's 'Walls of Old England' were oak-constructed ships, and HMS Victory consumed 5000 oaks in her build.

  • Henry III gave the Monks of Worcester 100 Oak Trees for the roof of the new cathedral that covered the tomb of his father, King John.

  • The English Oak is the most common tree in Britain, and more than half of the world's Oaks are located here.

  • On 2/8/1100, King William II (Rufus) was accidentally killed by an arrow deflected from an Oak whilst stag hunting in the New Forest, Hampshire. Today, the Rufus Stone stands on the site of that tree.

  • It is traditional for English Kings to be buried in an English Oak coffin encased in a lead coffin, used by the Romans to preserve the body.

      • An Oak tree from the Royal estate at Sandringham was chosen to build the coffin for King George VI.

      • After the skeletal remains of King Richard III were discovered in September 2012, he was reburied on 26 March 2015, at Leicester Cathedral, in a coffin made of English Oak, made by one of his ancestors who was a Canadian wood carver.

  • On the grounds of Windsor Castle, there is an ancient Oak estimated to be over 900 years old, which started to grow during Henry I's reign and is much loved by the Royal Family.

  • The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire was the meeting place of Robin Hood and his Merry Band, according to folklore.

  • A Shire Oak (scir ac in Old English) near Headingley, Leeds marked the boundary of the Norse wapentake of Skyrack, named after the tree.

  • The Gog and Magog Oaks near Glastonbury, Somerset were named after two giants from Celtic mythology.

  • Big Belly Oak in Savernake Forest is 1000 years old. There is a belief that the devil will appear to anyone who dances naked round it at midnight.

  • Herne's Oak in Windsor Great Park was involved in a feud between King Richard II and his keeper, and is mentioned in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.

  • According to some sources, the English Oak originated from Cornwall or Devon.

  • Native Americans use the strong wood of the Andean Oak to make tools and poles.

Plane

  • 'Genius'.

  • The London Plane represents half of London's trees, and is believed to be a mix of the Oriental Plane and American Sycamore.

  • Around 486 BC, King Xerxes of Persia was distracted by the beauty of a Plane tree on his way to conquer Greece. His distraction caused him to fail his conquest, allowing the Athenian Empire to prosper.

Poplar

  • 'Beauty' (Ukraine), 'Emotion', 'Sorrow'.

  • It clones itself on long root systems.

  • The Neanderthals may have used poplars to relieve toothache — fossils of jaws and loose teeth have been found packed with material from the tree. They also twisted the fibres to make strings.

  • Greek heroes wore poplar garlands in battle.

  • The Greek Sungod Helios' son, Phaethon, died by a lightning bolt, and Zeus turned the tearful female mourners into a cluster of Poplars.

  • Hercules tied its leaves into a victory wreath after defeating the giant, Cacus.

  • There are over 8000 Black Poplars in Great Britain, a large number of which are located in the Lea Valley.

Rowan

  • 'Prudence', 'Visual Delight', 'Following your Heart'.

  • Grown in churchyards and houses to protect from evil and witches.

Spruce

  • The name Spruce is believed to originate from Polish z Prus (from Prussia) — Polish merchants sourced most spruce wood from Prussia.

Sycamore

  • 'Curiosity', 'Divinity', 'Eternity', 'Strength'.

  • Its sap can make beer and the nectar from its flowers is excellent for honey.

  • This species retains its leaves well into the winter, and the flaky bark provides a winter home for many insects.

Walnut

  • 'Intellect', 'Self-Worth', 'Stratagem'.

  • The nut resembles the human brain, and is said to be good for it.

  • Husks can be used to create rich dyes.

Willow

  • 'Mourning', 'Grief', 'Sadness', 'Sorrow', 'The Subconscious World'.

  • Witches' brooms were made from its twigs.

  • They grew on Napoleon's grave at Saint Helena in 1892.

  • Branches were used for Palm Sunday as palms were not grown in Britain.

Yew

  • 'Sorrow', 'Immortality', 'Perspective', 'Omen of Doom'.

  • Planted on plague graves for purification and protection.

  • The Romans believed it grew in Hell.

  • Norse and Celtic people thought it prevented bewitching and death.

  • Christians believed its poison protected the dead.

  • Branches are carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals.

  • The trees were used to make the famous English Longbows of the successful battles of Crecy (26/8/1346), Poitiers (19/9/1356) and Azincourt/Agincourt (25/10/1415). English and Welsh archers could fire 12 arrows a minute, far faster than the Genoese (French) crossbow mercenaries.

  • At Twyford Churchyard, there is a Yew tree over a thousand years old.

  • According to folklore, an ancient Yew in Great Pepsells Field at Furneux Pelham (North Hertfordshire) grew a few feet from an ancient Roman road, and by the 18th century the trunk had split and steps had been set inside for a stile, to allow people to walk through the tree. At this time, the tree is believed to have been around 1500 years old. In the 1830s, while removing the stump and roots to create more arable land, farm labourers discovered golden objects within the roots, which some claimed were from a dragon's lair — at Brent Pelham Church lies the tomb of 'O. Piers Shonks', whose Latin inscription refers to the slaying of a dragon!