Have you ever given a thought to these silent natural wonders around you standing tall in diverse shapes and sizes? I am talking about trees — yes, trees are natural wonders and a gift to this world and to the entire humanity. They are a vital source of survival of all the living things on this planet, because they provide oxygen, food and shelter; they maintain ecology and keep the atmosphere clean.
Trees appeared some 360 million years ago on the face of the Earth. It is estimated that there are more than 60,000 tree species in the world, and all have a unique role to play. Researching to write on this beautiful creation of nature was a great experience for me because I was able to learn so many amazing things about trees, which I did not know before. But it was also a very difficult task to choose a few from the thousands of wonderful trees there are in nature. Therefore, I had to narrow down my topic to trees which are physically different and not known to most of us, even then, the list is too long. There are many I couldn’t include due to limited space, such as Japanese maple trees, giant sequoia, blue jacaranda, angel oak, sagana bamboo, rainbow eucalyptus, cannonball tree, Japanese cherry and wisteria.
Here are some of the trees among the many that I have selected due to their interesting and unusual features. Hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing!
Dragon blood trees, Socotra, Yemen
At first sight, they look like upside down giant umbrellas, or alien fauna on some other planet. Of course, these unusually beautiful trees are not alien fauna, nor are they on any other planet. They are called dragon blood trees, scattered over a vast deserted area of Socotra, Yemen.
You may wonder why the tree is named dragon blood? The trees don’t have anything to do with dragon or blood either, but the name has been given to them for the red sap that comes out from their bark when cut or damaged.
The red sap is actually the dragon blood trees’ defence system and helps them against the attack of pests and disease. In 17th century Europe, the sap was regarded as a magical cure for all. The claim was right, the sap has medicinal properties and more recently, the resin has been used in breath fresheners and other medicines.
Baobab tree, South Africa
These majestic pillar-like trees stand tall in arid regions of Madagascar, mainland Africa, Arabia and Australia. From a distance, baobabs seem lifeless giant pillars, but they are the most sustainable fauna found in arid regions. They have leafless branches for around nine months and bloom only for three months. The leaves appear on their tips and white flowers bloom in the night, spreading a scent of sour milk around. Baobabs also grow fruits and the egg-shaped one-foot long fruit is considered by the locals as a super food because it is rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium.
Baobabs are also called “The tree of life” because baobabs store water in their trunk and branches, which are porous and work like a sponge. Therefore, they allows them to conserve more water than any other tree. It is estimated that a healthy baobab can hold up to 120,000 litres of water in their trunk. Amazing, isn’t it!
All trees hold benefits, but in the case of the baobab, it seems that the tree is a wonder. For example, the bark is pounded to make ropes, mats, baskets, paper, cloth, musical instruments’ strings, and waterproof hats. Apart from that, baobabs are also used in various medicines to treat kidney and bladder-related diseases, asthma, insect bites and several other maladies.
The sandbox trees
The sandbox trees are considered life-threatening trees. They are native to tropical regions of North and South America, including the Amazon rainforest. They are also found in parts of Tanzania. Sandbox trees are also called dynamite tree.
Sounds weird? Yes, it is weird that the fruits they produce explode propelling seeds at the speed of 160 miles per hours, which means they can land up to a hundred feet or more away from the tree. The fruit resembles small pumpkins but work like grenades; they pose serious injury to whoever comes in their range.
Apart from that, the trunk of the tree is completely covered with dark pointed spines, which are full of toxic sap and is known to be very dangerous for humans.
The tree of life
This tree in the desert of Bahrain is a mystery. It has managed to survive the harsh climate without water for almost 400 years. The tree is on a hill in a barren area of the Arabian Desert, two kilometres from Jebel Dukhan, the highest point in Bahrain.
It is not certain how the tree has survived till now because Bahrain has little to no rain, throughout the year. The roots are said to be 50 metres deep, so it is possible for the tree to reach a water source deep down, if there is any.
Buttress roots tree
We have seen these amazing trees in various pictures and movies, they have roots growing and spreading as much on the ground as underground. They look mesmerising, yet straight out of some sci-fi thriller movie. So, what makes some trees to grow their roots buttress or on the ground?
According to researchers, when the soil quality where the trees grow is not good enough for the tree, it does not go deep into the ground and thus bulks up its roots on surface and find its nutrients on top of the ground. The roots also help trees from falling down.
Traveller’s tree or traveller’s palm
This truly lovely tree resembles a peacock with its feathers spread or a giant fan of leaves. They are found in Madagascar and are the only member of the genus.
So why this name? Well, there is an explanation for it. The tree accumulates water in its leaves’ base, and for centuries, it has been used in emergencies for drinking. The tree has leaves like that of the banana plant, which are each four to five metres long. Each leaf base is shaped like a huge cup and holds about one litre of rainwater. The tree grows white flower clusters with light blue seeds.
Silk cotton trees
You just can’t take off your eyes from these silk cotton trees. They are immensely tall and physically unique with their huge and twirling roots spreading all over the ground than beneath the ground. They are so breathtaking that at first look, you will not realise that you are looking at the roots as because of their size, they look like the trunk of the trees.
Silk cotton trees are found almost everywhere around the world, but the ones in Cambodia are relatively more famous for they have outgrown the ancient structures. The roots of the silk cotton trees are scattered all over the ancient site of Angkor complex, as if they are slowly reclaiming the site.
The crooked forest
Crooked trees are basically oddly shaped pine trees located near the town of Gryfino, western Poland. The crooked forest is shrouded in mystery, with numerous theories that have been proposed over the years, but none have been proven to be right. Therefore, nobody knows what made these trees so bizarrely crooked.
The crooked forest consists of around 400 pine trees that grow with a 90-degree bend at their base, the vast majority of which are bent northward. It is estimated that the trees were planted in the 1930s and that they were around seven to10 years old when they experienced whatever force/damage that resulted in trunk curvature.
There are many speculations of course, one of which is that some human tool or technique was used to make the trees grow this way. But still, nothing has been proven so far and the mystery behind the crooked trees remains a mystery.
When I first read about boojum, I wondered from where this spiky electricity pole-like thing comes in under the definition of a tree. So, I explored more about it and found that boojum are extremely unique and impressive tree/succulents.
Boojum is native to the Sonoran Desert on the west coast of Baja, California, and Sonora, Mexico. It can grow up to 15 metre tall. During the dry season, boojum remains leafless but when it rains, it stores water in its trunk and sprout tiny leaves and yellow clusters of flowers on its spiny branches.
This is a small cute tree found in south-western Angola and neighbouring north-western Namibia in southern Africa. They are named after the fact that they have swollen trunks which make them look much like that of a bottle. Like baobab trees, bottle tree also store water in their trunk, but while baobabs are kind enough to satiate thirsts of animals like elephants and humans along, bottle tree stores water for itself only.
Don’t be fooled with their cute appearance and sip the water; it is deadly and poisonous! It is said that the poison it produces is so lethal that the locals and hunters use it on their arrows for hunting.
Antarctic beech trees
These trees are located at the Godwana rainforests in Australia World Heritage Area. The reported age of some of these trees is said to be thousands of years. Research says that the trees were alive during the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the birth of Christianity, the dark ages and the crusades, and the renaissance period and now they are living through the modern age.
Antarctic beech trees are massive in size they are usually covered in moss because of the cool and rainy region they grow in.
Published in Dawn, Young World, August 29th, 2020