When the leaves have all fallen and the cold sets in, who will help the trees make it through winter?
Some of you might be thinking the Lorax will rush in to save the day, but the reality of the matter is that trees are tougher and stronger than we might assume. They have mechanisms and adaptations that help ensure a safe passage through the unforgiving months of extreme temperatures and conditions.
Ultimately, trees have to surpass two types of tests in order to see warmer months.
The first challenge is to utilize minimal amounts of food that have been stored. Secondly, trees must find a way to avoid having their living cells become frozen. Both tasks seem to be insurmountable, but these impressive organisms rise to the occasion and find unique and intriguing ways to succeed.
When fall rolls around and temperatures begin to drop, trees start the process of abscission. This process includes the severing of cellular ties between the tree and its leaves. This allows trees to breakdown the materials in its leaves, chlorophyll being the first to go, and turn it into valuable nutrients to be stored in the roots.
Trees also employ a process similar to what we do for our vehicles when we use the anti-freeze. When temperatures begin to plummet, trees begin converting starches into sugars. This conversion acts a sort of natural anti-freeze for the living cells deep within the tree. The primary goal for a tree is to keep its living cells from freezing or shattering. With the help of the sugars, trees also gain assistance from a cellular change that causes living cells to become more pliable or bendable. By doing so, trees can undergo harsher temperatures and conditions.
While not all trees will make it through the winter elements, most will live to see another warm season.
Trees are magical and fascinating objects that are often overlooked and under-appreciated. Cold or hot, get outside and learn more about the oxygen-producing treasures that fill our park!Photo by John Nation.