Arguably the most famous plants in the world, these vivacious trees dominate much of our human landscape. They grace our city streets, populate deep swaths of the countryside, and are iconic symbols of nations, wealth, and superstition. They have given humanity incredible medical advances- like aspirin and quinine, along with plump fruits, berries, nuts, and syrup. Their wood fuels some of our most powerful industries...and since humanity loves to make smoke, we should also praise the forests for being our lungs and putting up with us.
Deciduous just means falling off, like deciduous teeth are baby teeth. In botany this refers to leaves, petals, or fruit falling off when its mature. All plants shed their leaves to conserve water, but it plays out differently across biomes.
In temperate regions like the United States, plants shed their leaves to survive cold winter temperatures. This also makes them less vulnerable to insect infestation. Their leaves are gone and the thousands of follicles the leaves grew out of are closed. Also the only reason to nibble on the plant is if you want bark, so there is less limb breakage from hungry animals.
In tropical and subtropical environments leaf drop is triggered by the dry season. This kind of drop can happen at any time, depending on what triggers a particular species. This makes for interesting forests, sometimes one side of a mountain will be bare while the other full. When there is abundant water available, forests can be a patchwork of certain trees with leaves and others with none.
Probably what captures our attention most with these trees is that there can be a large and beautiful change of color, and then the tree makes elaborate patterned carpets for us to walk over. The colors and the crisp recognizable leaves create a connection for us, we know what a maple leaf looks like and we can appreciate that whole species wherever we go.
So each culture creates its own connection to these tree. The maple tree in Canada symbolizes national pride, it's on their money and represents sports' teams. In old America it was believed to repel demons and evil spirits, so at least one beam in a door or at the foot of a bed was often maple. In Celtic and Chinese traditions maples symbolize fertility. Japanese Maples have born an entire field of art! In Japan they represent peace, calm and balance.
Sculpting with Willows Saplings
Willow saplings make for some large and fantastic sculptures. In fact we have been weaving willow since at least 8300BCE, the date given to a fishing net discovered in Norway that is over 90 feet of willow branches.
Four Famous Oaks
This tree was turned into a Chapel, another one was a gathering place for illegal education, one has roots that won't quit after 13,000 years, and folklore says that one was the meeting spot for Robin Hood and his band of merry men.
See some world renowned sculptors who make their living with pruning shears and imagination.
Tree Ring Music
See how an artist figured out how to translate the texture and contours of tree rings into piano music. It seems that when trees make music it's a little scary, and also uniquely beautiful.
Willows in Water, Drugs, & Folklore
Willows have long thin leaves, flexible branches, and when the wind blows through them they look like flowing water. They are important to water ecosystems, but they also have a uniquely important place in the world of drugs and folklore.