by Janet Spencer

Trees have evolved in many fascinating ways. Keep reading to find out facts about trees!


Over 60,000 species of trees have been identified worldwide. There are an estimated 3.04 trillion trees in the world, which works out to about 422 trees for each person.

• Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but trees didn’t exist for the first 90% of the planet’s history. The first mosses evolved about 470 million years ago, but no plant grew taller than three feet (1 m) for millions more years.

Zinn Music Shop

• It was another 85 million years (around 300 million years ago) before the first true trees emerged, transforming the atmosphere into an oxygen-rich environment where humans and other animals could live.

• Forests now cover around 30% of Earth’s total land area

• It’s estimated the Earth has about 46%    fewer trees than it did 12,000 years ago, when humans began to develop agriculture.

• Over half of the forests in the world are found in just five countries: Russia, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and China.

• Countries with the least forest cover include desert countries like Egypt and Libya; small, densely populated countries such as Monaco; and frigid countries like Iceland.

About 58% of all tree species exist within the boundaries of a single country. Places with the most of these “country-endemic” species include Australia, Brazil, China, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

• Brazil has the most species, with over 8,700. About half of them are found only in Brazil.

• Although tropical rainforests cover only about 3% of Earth’s surface, they are home to around half the planet’s animal species.

• The Amazon rainforest contributes an estimated 20% of Earth’s oxygen. However, phytoplankton in the oceans contribute a whopping 70%.

• About 18% of the world’s forests are located within the boundaries of protected areas including national parks, game reserves, and conservation areas. Africa has the most with 31%, and Europe has the least at 5%.

• Any mature tree during its dormant period is 99% dead. The only living parts of a tree are the leaves, buds, vascular tissues (phloem and xylem), and root tips. The rest of the tree’s mass provides structural support.

• Trees get about 90% of their nutrition from the sun and the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil.

• More than half of a typical tree’s roots grow only 6 inches (15 cm) deep, and most of the rest go only about 18 inches (45 cm) deep. Few species of trees have true tap roots.

• The deepest tree roots ever found belong to a wild fig whose roots were found dangling in a wet cave in South Africa, 400 feet (122 m) below the surface.

• The tropical manchineel tree is the world’s most toxic tree, with all parts of it being deadly, including the bark, leaves, fruit, and sap. Even the smoke from burning the wood and rain dripping off the leaves can sicken or kill a human.

Pine trees are the world’s most common species, found on all continents except Antarctica. The rarest tree is the Pennantia baylisiana, which lives only on an island off New Zealand. When goats were introduced to the island, they destroyed the trees until only one was left. Scientists are working to save the tree by rooting cuttings and germinating seeds.

• The dwarf willow is the world’s smallest tree, reaching a height of 2.5 inches (6 cm). It grows in the harsh tundra.

• The tallest tree is a coastal redwood in California, standing 380 feet (116 m) tall. That’s taller than the Statue of Liberty at 305 feet (93 m). It’s around 2,000 years old.

• The oldest tree in the world is a Great Basin bristlecone pine in California. It’s 5,068 years old. It    beat out another bristlecone pine (nicknamed Methuselah) for the title, which was only 4,852 years old. The world’s third-oldest tree, called Prometheus and located in the same grove, was 4,844 years old when it was cut down in 1964 in order to find out how old it was.    All these trees are located in Inyo National Forest in California, in undisclosed locations, to prevent vandalism. These trees predate the construction of the Pyramids in Egypt.

• Bristlecone pines may be the oldest individual trees, but groups of cloned trees are much older. The oldest is an aspen grove in Utah collectively called “Pando” which is Latin for “I spread.”    It covers over 100 acres and consists of about 47,000 genetically identical individual trees linked by a single root system estimated to be about 80,000 years old. It’s the world’s largest single organism by mass. Alas, the grove, which first sprouted when humans began to migrate out of Africa, is gradually dying out, largely due to various human interferences.

The thickest tree, called “the tree of Tule,” is located in the town of Santa María del Tule in Mexico. This cypress has a circumference of 137.8 feet (42.0 m), and it takes 105 men standing shoulder-to-shoulder to surround it. Only a few sequoias come close to its girth.

• The blackest wood is ebony, which is dense enough to sink in water, and can be polished to a mirror-like shine.

• The Osage orange tree or hedge apple, native to the southern U.S., generates the most heat when burned.

• Apollo astronaut Stuart Roosa took several hundred tree seeds with him to the Moon in 1971. Upon return, they were germinated and planted to see if they had been affected in any way. They grew entirely normally on college campuses all over the U.S.

• Palm trees are not trees, but are actually massive woody herbs. Bamboo is not a tree, but is the largest member of the grass family.

• If you carve your initials in a tree and come back in ten or twenty years, the initials will be at the identical height as they first were.

• A large oak can drop 10,000 acorns in a year, feeding over 100 species of animals.

• In Baltimore, a 10% increase in tree cover on city streets corresponded to a 12% decrease in crime.

• Trees are wonderful in so many ways: The addition of just one large tree in the middle of an open pasture increases bird biodiversity from nearly zero to as high as 80. The cooling shade offered by a single mature tree is equal in chilling power to two central air conditioners. Hospital patients recover 8% faster if they can see trees from their hospital window. They offer many benefits ranging from food, medicine, and raw materials to shade, windbreaks, soil stabilization, and flood control.