MadSci Network: Botany

Re: what role do trees play in our everyday lives?

Date: Tue Nov 2 19:43:33 2004
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1099419697.Bt

Trees are extremely important in most people's lives for food, fuel, shelter, 
paper, medicines and thousands of other products and also to improve the human 
environment. They are also an essential part of human civilizations in many 
ways. The 2004 Nobel Peace went to a Kenyan woman, Wangari Maathai, for her 
planting of thirty million trees.

Trees provide us with many foods:

1. Most "fruits", such as apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear, orange, 
grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine, persimmon, starfruit, avocado, mango, 
papaya, plum, date, fig, coconut, olive, breadfruit, etc.
2. Most "nuts" such as almond, pecan, walnut, chestnut, macadamia, pistachio, 
hazelnut, Brazilnut, cashew, pine nuts, ginkgo nuts, etc. 
3. Chocolate, from cacao tree
4. Chicle, used in chewing gum, from chicle tree 
5. Coffee, from coffee tree
6. Cinnamon, from bark of cinnamon tree 
7. Several other spices such as nutmeg, allspice and cloves
8. Maple sugar, from sugar maple
9. Root beer flavoring, from sassafras tree roots
10. Chocolate substitute from pods of carob tree 
11. Coffee substitute from seeds of Kentucky coffee tree

Several medicines come from trees:

1. Quinine from cinchona tree bark used to treat malaria
2. Taxol from yews used to treat cancer
3. Alkaloids from rauvolfia are used to treat high blood pressure 
4. Eucalyptus oil used in cough syrups, inhalants, mouth washes, etc.
5. Witch hazel, used as an antiseptic
6. Ginkgo, used as an herbal supplement to improve memory
7. Native peoples use many trees as sources of medicine

Trees provide us with thousands of other products:

1. Most rubber comes from rubber trees
2. Leather is tanned with tannins derived from trees
3. Paper and cardboard.
4. Firewood
5. Wood for plywood, buildings, boats, floors, furniture, wood toys, picture 
frames, handles for hammers and axes, playground equipment, fences, railroad 
ties, telephone poles, etc. 
6. Toothpicks, matches, clothspins, popsicle sticks, etc.
7. Palm and coconut oils are used in soaps and toiletries
8. Carnauba wax used in car waxes comes from Brazilian wax palm
9. Some dyes come from trees, such as a black dye from walnut husks
10. Myrrh and frankincense
11. Perfume oils, from a variety of trees, such as sandalwood, almond and pine
12. Turpentine from pines
13. Rosin from pines
14. Life preserver stuffing obtained from kapok tree
15. Synthetic fibers such as rayon consist of processed from wood fibers
16. Disposable diapers made from woodpulp
17. Cellulose gum in toothpaste and cosmetics
18. Christmas trees
19. Baseball bats, mainly from ash
20. Golf club heads from persimmon
21. Golf ball coating, latex from balata tree
22. Osage orange hedges were used as cattle proof fencing before barbed wire
23. Musical instruments, such as violins, pianos, wood flutes, bassoons, etc.
24. Mulch is often made from tree bark or wood chips.
25. Amber is petrified tree sap used as a gemstone and provided a key plot 
element in Jurassic Park movie
26. Neem tree oil is a pesticide
27. Holly branches are used as Christmas decorations
28. Eucalyptus and pussy willow branches are used in flower arrangements
29. Pencils are usually made with wood
30. Cellophane and some plastic are made from tree cellulose
31. Redwood tree burls are sold as novelties, which are placed in water and 
form green shoots
32. A few trees are grown indoors as houseplants, such as Norfolk Island pine 
and benjamin fig

Trees provide many other benefits:

1. Trees provide some of the oxygen animals need to breathe.
2. Trees provide homes and food for many animals, such as birds and squirrels.
3. Trees improve the human environment in many ways providing shade, 
windbreaks, cooling, screening of unsightly views and erosion control.
4. Some trees are revered for their size or age and are tourist attractions 
such as the largest tree in volume (giant sequoia), tallest tree (redwood) and 
oldest tree (bristlecone pine). 
5. Fall tree leaf colors are enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans and are 
a multi-billion dollar per year tourist attraction.
6. Forests and forested parks provide sites for recreation.
7. Historic trees are revered as symbols of a famous person, place or event, 
for example the George Washington tulip poplar and Liberty elm
8. Some animals eat trees, for example silkworms eat mulberry leaves, 
squirrels and bluejays eat acorns
9. Attractive or fragrant flowers and colorful fruits to decorate lawns and 
gardens, such as flowering dogwood, princess tree, flowering cherry, flowering 
crabapple, redbud, magnolia, etc.
10. Craft items are often made from tree cones and fruits, especially pine 
11. Each state has a state tree
12. Trees are sometimes national symbols, such as the Canadian maple leaf
13. Trees are used on stamps, coins, currency, fabrics and in art
14. Trees are often planted as memorials
15. Arbor Day is a holiday in most states
16. Growing trees is a multi-billion dollar per year business
17. Tree rings are used to date objects
18. Grafting trees is sometimes used to create whimsical forms, such as living 
ladders in the "Tree Circus" created by Axel Erlandson 
19. An arboretum is a "tree zoo" that is used for scientific study and 
20. Trees are often featured in poems and literature, for example the 
poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer
21. Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) is a popular folk story for children. 
Chapman planted apple trees in the early 1800s in what later became Ohio, 
Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.  

Some negative effects of trees

1. Trees knocked down by windstorms and hurricanes cause millions of dollars 
in damage to buildings telephone line and power lines
2. Many people are allergic to tree pollen, especially oak and birch
3. Many people get splinters 


Lewington, Anna. 1990. Plants for People. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewington, Anna and Parker, Edward. 2002. Ancient Trees: Trees That Live For 
1,000 Years. Collins & Brown.

Meyer, Jeffrey G. and Linnea, Sharon. 2001. America's Famous and Historic 
Trees: From George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak. 
Houghton Mifflin.

Pakenham, Thomas. 2002. Remarkable Trees of the World. W. W. Norton & Company.

Historic Trees

State Trees

Native American Ethnobotany Database

Forest and Tree Uses

California Rare Fruit Growers

Tree Circus

Joyce Kilmer (1886 - 1918) - Author of Trees and Other Poems

Current Queue | Current Queue for Botany | Botany archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Botany.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2003. All rights reserved.