how do trees grow

How Do Trees Grow?

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    Learning how trees interact with various components of their surroundings is crucial to comprehending their growth, development, and eventual demise, as well as the best methods for caring for them. Incredibly complex and versatile, trees are fascinating living things. It's important to understand their roles in order to protect the health of trees. Branches of trees extend skyward. The leaves act as solar collectors and absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide gas. Roots spread outward and downward into the soil, seeking out water and oxygen. The roots of a plant are its structural support system, absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. The timing of both root and shoot growth is controlled by chemicals (hormones).

    It's possible for people and other creatures to develop nearly everywhere they're born. Our bones, skin, and muscle all become larger as we get older. No tree would ever develop in such a way. When a tree grows, it adds new cells only in specific spots. We refer to these centres of cell division as meristems. The meridians are dynamic hotspots of development. They are responsible for the development and proliferation of all cells. The meristems at the ends of the tree's branches are responsible for the plant's vertical expansion. Apical meristems are the source of the plant's growth at its tip. Apical meristems cause roots to sprout at their tips, allowing them to spread out through the soil.  

    Regardless of where you look on a tree, you will see apical meristems in every bud. A second meristem, the vascular cambium, is responsible for the expansion of the trunk's diameter. Annual xylem and phloem production by the vascular cambium causes the trunk, branches, and roots to continue to expand. Have you ever seen a tree sprout from a fence wire or board? The vascular cambium is responsible for the effect. Height gain does not occur from below ground, hence the fence wire or board does not erect itself. Just the very ends of the branches are affected. Is it something that has ever baffled you that tiny seedlings can grow into such massive forests? From the tiny seeds of the fire cherry to the decaying remains of the white oak, every tree goes through an astonishing life cycle.

    Taking Hold

    Germination, the process by which a seed absorbs water and opens up, begins once it has landed and been stimulated by factors such as soil nutrients, water, warmth, or fire. Once this happens, the seed case is progressively lifted from the ground by the initial root, called a taproot, while the stem develops upward into the air. Within a short period of time, the seed case is no longer needed, and the plant's leaves can be seen growing and unfolding to take in CO2 and sunshine. But the movement isn't only on the surface; below ground, the taproot grows thicker and deeper, sending out fine filaments that cling to bits of soil. Growing in this way, the fragile seedling will mature into a sturdy sapling with a single woody stem and evergreen leaves or needles.

    The young tree will eventually develop a strong taproot and extensive lateral roots to anchor the soil and supply nutrients to the crown. When the soil is shallow and poor, as it often is in tropical rainforests, trees will develop aerial or buttress roots above ground to make up for the lack of oxygen they receive and to offer additional stability.

    When there is sufficient oxygen and water, roots can grow and thrive. While root tips continue to expand and colonise new soil regions during most of the year, this process is halted when soil temperatures drop. The average tree root system is two to five canopy diameters out from the trunk. The first 12 inches of soil are where most of your plant's roots will be actively growing. Roots will grow closer to the surface in heavy soil because they require more air. Heavy hardpans, waterlogged soils, and soil compaction all prevent root development below ground.

    Woody roots that live for years and take nutrients from the soil are not the only type of root. Wood and bark accumulate in the base of woody roots each year, just as it does in the stems and branches. The tree's sturdy wooden support roots spread out and down to provide stability. Woody roots give rise to a plethora of annual absorbing roots. The absorbing roots of annuals spread out like fans in the earth, growing deeply and horizontally. These roots are responsible for absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. Each year, thousands of root fans are produced and then lost. Where there is an abundance of water and nutrients, as under the surface's decomposing debris, root fans will form.

    Even though young tree roots try to keep their distance from one another, eventually they may be compelled to join together in a graft union. Sometimes, root grafting might lead to complications. A street lined with elm trees, for instance, might have their roots grafted together. As a result of these grafts, diseases might spread from one tree to another. Water and minerals are taken up by the roots and carried away by them. Water steadily travels through the soil, carrying elements from one particle to the next. Root fans, which sit horizontally near the earth's surface, soak up moisture and nutrients as they pass through the soil.

    Root water uptake is regulated by the leaves. In the process of transpiration, water from the leaves evaporates (stomates). When water molecules evaporate, they draw more water molecules up behind them. Through a process known as transpiration, water is transported from the soil through the root to the stem to the leaf. It's impossible for leaves to generate enough power in dry soils to remove water, so they wilt and die.

    FAQs About Growing Trees

    The most common job of a professional tree climber is as a working arborist or tree doctor. These guys and gals climb hazardous trees, making the world above our heads a little safer. They are also credited with doing great work in helping to take care of our urban trees.

    Arborists are often called tree surgeons because their business bears a resemblance to how a doctor works on people.

    But by the time the tree reaches 90 years of age, its growth has slowed to about half a meter – roughly a foot and a half – a year. By the time the tree is 150 years old, height growth has virtually stopped, even though the tree may live another 100 years.

    In the case of high voltage transmission lines, that distance can soar up to 35 feet (11 meters). What's more, humidity and rain can boost both so they're able to zap unwary climbers from even farther away, and the results are usually fatal.

    Consulting arborists and inspectors don't make much more than $60,000, even after spending decades in the industry (source). Very few earn more than $100,000...but there are outliers. The only professionals in arboriculture who actually earn good money are those who own or have interest in tree service businesses.

    Maturation and Growth

    Climate plays a major role in a tree's development pattern, which normally consists of active expansion followed by rest intervals; in temperate locations, a whole year's growth might take place in only a few short weeks. When it's time for the plant to hibernate, the leaves fold inward and watertight buds are generated to shield the new growth. Root and stem development and tissue enlargement are two aspects of growth. Trees, in contrast to animals and people, only have a few specific locations, termed meristems, where they can generate new cells. Most trees, if given the time to mature on their own, can live for hundreds of years, centuries even, with their twisted branches reaching for the stars.

    Decomposition and Death

    mulching is important (3)

    Trees are frequently lost prematurely due to environmental stresses such as floods, strong winds, fires, poor soil, infestations, insects and illnesses that interfere with their ability to create and circulate food, nutrients, and water, and human activities such as deforestation and logging. While it's true that snags can serve as home to a variety of species, the loss of too many trees can have a devastating effect on entire ecosystems. After all, trees are great neighbours since they aid in so many ways: they absorb and release water, stabilise soil, filter the air, give food, and even help sequester carbon.


    Chlorophyll in green plants allows them to absorb more light. Chlorophyll is a pigment that captures light and stores it so that other molecules can use it. Carbon dioxide molecules collected from the air are energised by captured light. Each molecule's carbon atoms form a chain, much like a strand of beads, and release oxygen. Starch, sugar, and other carbon-based substances are used as tree nourishment. Carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, are transported from the leaves to the roots via the inner bark of the twigs, trunk, and branches, and not vice versa. Carbohydrates are used as fuel by living cells. Starch is preserved from unused food. To survive, a twig or branch must produce and store its own food. The final few annual rings of wood towards the branch's tip store nutrients for the following spring's growth.


    The growth point of a shoot is where leaves form. Each developing leaf is encased in a hardened bud scale that shields it from the elements. Protective sheaths, fresh sections of stem, emerging leaves, and the expanding tip all make up a bud. Axil (stem connection) buds form at the tip of each leaf and secrete hormone signals to maintain two-way contact between the tree's crown and its base. Flowering stems can be found in some buds. All buds include immature leaves that will eventually bloom into new buds. Having this backup plan (one bud nestled inside another) helps plants endure harsh circumstances and insect infestations. If buds don't open into shoots, the bark may eventually grow over them.

    Bark-covered buds barely increase in size each year, just enough to keep up with the tree. Dormant buds or latent are what you'd call them. Since every branch develops from a single bud, dormant buds cluster at the bases of all the branches. A branch's latent buds may reawaken after being cut. Trees keep thousands of bud sites in reserve, but only a tiny fraction of them ever develop into fully grown trees. The most active buds govern the tree, and the terminal bud on a branch governs all the buds below it. The regulated buds can be unlocked by cutting off the dominant terminal bud.


    The bark of a living tree acts as a protective barrier against the elements and as a reservoir for the tree's moisture needs. Cell walls that have crumbled and become waxy and oily are what make up old corky bark. The bark's lenticels are what allow trees to take in oxygen; the inner bark's live cells are responsible for transporting sugars.


    The tree's stem (or trunk) consists of twigs, main trunk, and branches(branches are large twigs, and twigs are little branches) that grow in size each year to support and raise the leaves. The trunk acts as a highway for nutrients to get from the ground up to the upper levels of the plant. The leaves receive nutrients and water via the branches, which travel up the tree. Change occurs in the outermost yearly rings of wood. Can carbs be thought of as having an anti-clockwise motion? Leaves, branches, and stems all have inner bark that can be peeled back to reveal the roots below.

    For trees, each year is a new beginning for the trunk. A new layer of living wood grows over the previous year's tree every summer and spring. The tree used this year was actually last year's tree that had new tissue added. A tree will decline and eventually die if it is unable to increase its height each year. Many layers can be seen in a cross section of a tree trunk. Dead bark covers the tree's exterior and acts as a shield. A tree's inner bark is living and transports nutrients from the canopy to the trunk and eventually the roots. Materials such as food are transported to the trunk of the tree via ray cells after travelling downward in the inner bark.


    Between the bark and the wood is a layer of cells called the cambium, which divides rapidly to create new wood and inner bark. The cambium layer is an important reaction site that responds to harm and causes annual growth in the diameter of the twig, branch, trunk, and woody root. Annual growth rings of wood are included inside the cambium. Each yearly ring contains enormous pores that transport water to the plant's leaves. While the big pore cells themselves are necrotic, the fibre cells that surround them are still alive and well.

    Light and living, the sapwood makes up the outermost four to twenty yearly rings. Dead heartwood refers to the darker wood found in the centre of big tree trunks. Heartwood is where many chemicals are either produced or deposited. Some trees have heartwood that is resistant to rot.


    The intertwining of branch and trunk tissues is what holds the branches to the trunk. The base of the branch is secured by the trunk by means of a wood branch collar. The branch crotch is a site of tissue expansion where the trunk and a branch rub up against one another. The ridge formed by the upward push of bark on a branch is known as a bark ridge. When the bark ridge is unable to protrude, the bark becomes encased in the woody tissue of the trunk or branch. "Included bark" refers to bark that has grown over and beyond its original boundaries. Bark inclusions make branches brittle and prone to break. Each every branch or twig must be nourished by its own set of leaves. A starved branch will not receive nourishment from the roots or neighbouring branches. We cut off any limbs that can't hold their own weight. If a branch is cut off from its supply of water and nutrients, the tree will die. Only the healthy, fruit-bearing ones make it.


    When a tree is injured or its interior is exposed to the elements, it responds by erecting protective walls to keep the problem from spreading. Because of these partitions, the inside is both protected from the outside environment and from any living organisms that may be there. Damaged areas of a tree are isolated from the healthy wood by a wall after being attacked by decay, disease, insects, or mechanical means.


    For optimal development and protection, a tree's limbs require constant communication with the trunk and roots. As opposed to animals, trees rely on chemical signals for communication rather than a neurological system. Auxin is a hormone produced by buds that is transported by living cells from the shoot and leaf tips to the root tips. Cytokinin, a second communication substance produced by root tips, travels up the tree's trunk via the water supply. The ratio of these hormones to others that stimulate growth shifts depending on the time of year and the state of the plant's leaves and roots. Shoots are continuously aware of what the roots are doing, and vice versa, because each cell in the tree constantly reads the combined communications. The tree's genetic makeup determines how it reacts. Herbicides are just one example of a synthetic chemical that can have a negative impact on plant development.


    A tree's branches and trunk don't develop at the same rate. Trees develop in spurts. First the plant develops roots, and then it sends up its first set of leaves and stems. A huge oak, for instance, may have one branch grow for a few weeks before another one begins to develop. The availability of water is crucial for development. New cells are generated at the bud's growing tips, but they can't multiply unless they have access to water. Tissues are unable to grow because to a lack of water for hydraulic expansion. In order for cells to expand, they need a chemical signal, the ability to divide, and a sufficient supply of water.

    The rate at which a tree grows varies not only from one day to the next but also from one season to another. Generally speaking, a tree's growth rate will increase in response to improved water conditions. Because of the greater availability of water at night, most tree growth happens then.

    Leafy Throne

    Does Trimming A Tree Help It Grow?

    Most bud development occurs near the tree's crown. The bud of a tree is nothing more than a clump of developing cells that will eventually become the tree's leaves, blossoms, and shoots, all of which are vital to the development of the tree's crown and canopy. Buds are not only important for branch development, but also for flower and leaf production. Cataphylls are the basic leaves that shelter the young tree from the elements as it grows. All plants, regardless of kind, use these structures to continue expanding and generating new, smaller leaves and flowers, even in challenging or restrictive environments, thanks to the protective bud.

    So, The magnificent network of leaves and branches that emerge from developing buds is a tree's "crown." Growth cells in developing buds form the meristematic tissues from which branches extend outward. The shape, size, and height of a tree's crown are all determined by the growth of its limb and branch buds. The apical meristem is a group of cells at the top of the tree that divide and divide again to form the central and terminal leader of the crown. Keep in mind that not all blossoms reveal little leaves. Tiny, fully formed flowers, or even both leaves and flowers, can be found within some buds. Bulbs can either be terminal (at the very tip of the stem) or lateral (on the side of the shoot, usually at the base of the leaves).

    A Brief Synopsis of Tree Development

    Even while we have all seen trees and are therefore familiar with them, we are not as well versed in their growth, their functions, and their distinct biology. All of a tree's elements, but particularly its photosynthetic properties, are intricately connected with one another. At the beginning of its existence, a tree doesn't look much different from any other plant. It will take the seedling roughly a month to develop a real single stem, tree-like leaves or needles, bark, and wood. A tree can develop from a seedling in only a few brief weeks. Ancient trees, like all other life on Earth, originated in the ocean and continue to rely on it for survival. The root system of a tree is a vital water-collecting mechanism that sustains the tree and, by extension, all other organisms that rely on trees for survival.


    Understanding a tree's growth, development, and eventual demise requires an understanding of the ways in which trees interact with their environment. Meristems are dynamic developmental hotspots responsible for the development and proliferation of all cells; they regulate the timing of root and shoot growth via chemicals (hormones). When a seed receives water, it begins the process of germination. Trees grow a deep taproot and lateral roots as they mature. Trees will grow supplementary roots in the form of airborne or buttress roots when the soil is too shallow and nutrient-poor to support their normal root systems.

    Thousands of root fans are created every year, only to be discarded. Root fans develop when there is an abundance of water and nutrients. Root grafting is not without its risks. For example, the roots of elm trees planted along a street could be grafted together. An overabundance of snags can have a catastrophic impact on ecosystems.

    Trees have many benefits, including water and soil stabilisation, air and food filtration, and carbon sequestration. Each developing leaf has its own protective covering, or bud scale, which acts as an armour against the elements. The bark on a healthy tree has two purposes: it keeps the tree safe from the elements and it stores water for the tree to use later. When the outer bark is peeled back from the leaves, stems, and branches, the inner bark reveals the plant's underground structure. Without the ability to grow taller each year, a tree will eventually die.

    What we mean by "included bark" is bark that has expanded beyond its initial confines. The darker wood in the middle of large tree trunks is called "dead heartwood." Because bark inclusions make branches so fragile, those branches must rely on their own leaves for sustenance. The branches of a tree need to be in regular contact with the trunk and the roots in order to grow and stay safe. Auxin is a hormone that is secreted by buds and transferred by living cells from the growing tips of the stem, leaf, and ultimately the roots. A second chemical, cytokinin, is released at the root tips and moves up the tree's trunk. A tree's crown's form, size, and height are all influenced by the development of its limb and branch buds. Buds not only aid in the growth of a branch, but also in the creation of flowers and leaves. It just takes a few weeks for a tree to mature from a seedling.

    Content Summary

    1. Trees are remarkable organisms due of their incredible complexity and adaptability.
    2. Knowing their functions is crucial for ensuring tree survival.
    3. These cell-division hubs are called meristems.
    4. Zones of rapid growth and change can be seen along the meridians.
    5. All cellular growth and division depend on them.
    6. It is the meristems at the tips of the tree's branches that are responsible for the tree's upward growth.
    7. All new growth at a plant's apex originates in regions called apical meristems.
    8. Every bud on a tree has an apical meristem, no matter where you look.
    9. The vascular cambium produces new xylem and phloem every year, resulting in the continued growth of the trunk, branches, and roots.
    10. Only the tips of the branches are impacted.
    11. As the stem grows upward, the initial root, known as a taproot, gradually lifts the seed case from the earth.
    12. The tender seedling will eventually develop into a strong sapling with a single woody stem and evergreen leaves or needles if it is allowed to grow in this manner.
    13. The young tree will grow a deep taproot and wide lateral roots to hold the soil in place and bring nutrients to the crown.
    14. Aerial or buttress roots are developed by trees in situations when the soil is shallow and poor, such as in tropical rainforests, to compensate for the lack of oxygen and to provide additional stability.
    15. Roots can only grow and flourish when they have access to enough oxygen and water.
    16. The root tips of plants grow and colonise new soil areas continuously during most of the year, but this process is inhibited when soil temperatures decrease.
    17. Roots typically extend forth from the trunk by a distance of two to five canopies' width.
    18. Most of the roots of your plant will be located in the top 12 inches of soil.
    19. Because they need more oxygen, roots in dense soil tend to cluster towards the surface.
    20. Compacted soil, wet soil, and dense hardpans all hinder root growth.
    21. There are many different kinds of roots, not just the woody ones that can live for a long time and draw nutrients up from the ground.
    22. Each year, much like in the stems and branches, wood and bark accumulate at the base of woody roots.
    23. Spreading out and down, the tree's strong wooden support roots anchor it.
    24. An abundance of annual absorption roots develop from the woody parent plant's roots.
    25. Annuals take in nutrients and water through their roots, which spread out like fans in the soil.
    26. These roots take up moisture and nutrients from the ground.
    27. Tens of thousands of root fans are grown and then discarded every year.
    28. Despite their initial efforts to retain their separate, young tree roots may be forced to graft together.
    29. Root grafting is not without its risks.
    30. For example, the roots of elm trees planted along a street could be grafted together.
    31. These grafts increase the risk of disease transmission from one tree to another.
    32. The roots are responsible for absorbing water and minerals and transporting them throughout the plant.
    33. Rather than growing vertically, root fans lie horizontally just below the soil's surface, where they may readily absorb water and nutrients.
    34. The intake of water by the plant's roots is controlled by the leaves.
    35. Transpiration is the mechanism by which a plant moves water from its root through its stem to its leaf.
    36. A tree's growth cycle typically consists of periods of rapid expansion followed by dormancy, but in temperate regions, a year's worth of growth may occur in only a few weeks.
    37. Expanding tissues and the formation of new ones are two signs of growth with the establishment of new roots and stems.
    38. Most trees, if let to grow naturally, can survive for hundreds or even centuries, with gnarled limbs that eventually reach for the heavens.
    39. It's true that snags can provide shelter for many species, but losing too many trees can have a devastating effect on entire ecosystems.
    40. Since they contribute in so many ways (including by absorbing and releasing water, stabilising soil, filtering air, providing food, and even aiding in carbon sequestration), trees make excellent neighbours.
    41. Green plants are able to take in more light thanks to the chlorophyll they contain.
    42. Trees are fed starch, sugar, and other carbon-based compounds.
    43. Sugars and starches are carried downward from the leaves to the roots via the inner bark of the stems, trunk, and branches, but not the other way around.
    44. Cellular respiration requires the usage of carbohydrates as fuel.
    45. The leaves of a shoot develop at its node of growth.
    46. Bark-encased buds grow only enough each year to keep up with the tree.
    47. The most vigourous buds control the tree, and a branch's tip controls its subordinate buds.
    48. Severing the dominant terminal bud releases the regulated buds.
    49. The bark on a healthy tree has two purposes: it keeps the tree safe from the elements and it stores water for the tree to use later.
    50. To a tree, each year is a fresh start at the base of the trunk.
    51. Every summer and spring, a fresh layer of living wood sprouts over the tree's previous year's wood.
    52. A cross section of a tree trunk reveals many distinct layers.
    53. The protective layer of dead bark that wraps around a tree.
    54. The inner bark of a tree is alive and works like a tube, carrying water and nutrients from the branches down to the trunk and eventually the roots.
    55. Material, such as food, travels downward in the inner bark of the tree and is then delivered to the trunk by ray cells.
    56. The cambium, a thin layer of cells between the bark and the wood, divides rapidly to produce new wood and inner bark.
    57. Within the cambium are the annual growth rings of wood.
    58. Water is carried to the leaves via massive pores that can be seen in each new annual ring.
    59. The outermost four to twenty annual rings make up the sapwood, which is light and alive.
    60. The darker wood in the middle of large tree trunks is called "dead heartwood."
    61. Heartwood from certain trees is naturally resistant to decay.
    62. What keeps the branches attached to the trunk is the entwining of tissues at both levels.
    63. A wood branch collar is attached to the trunk at the branch's base to keep it in place.
    64. A bark ridge is the ridge created when bark is pushed upwards on a branch.
    65. The bark becomes embedded in the woody tissue of the trunk or branch when the bark ridge is unable to emerge. Each separate branch or twig needs its own set of leaves in order to survive.
    66. When a limb is weak, we amputate it.
    67. The tree will perish if a branch is severed from its source of water and nutrients.
    68. To prevent further damage from occuring after an injury or when the tree's interior is exposed to the elements, it will erect protective walls.
    69. A tree that has been attacked by decay, disease, insects, or machinery will have its damaged parts separated from the healthy wood by a wall.
    70. The branches of a tree need to be in regular contact with the trunk and the roots in order to grow and stay safe.
    71. Trees lack a central nervous system and instead rely on chemical signals to convey information to one another.
    72. Another chemical signal, cytokinin, is created at the root tips and is carried up the tree's trunk by the water supply.
    73. Time of year and leaf and root condition both affect the relative abundance of these hormones relative to those that stimulate growth.
    74. There is a disparity between the growth rates of a tree's trunk and its branches.
    75. Having access to water is essential for progress.
    76. As a rule, as water availability increases, a tree grows faster.
    77. The tree's crown is where the majority of its buds will open.
    78. Tree buds are just clusters of cells that will develop into the tree's leaves, flowers, and shoots in the future. These parts are essential to the growth of the tree's crown and canopy.
    79. Buds have a critical role in the growth of the branch, but they also contribute to the development of the flowers and leaves.
    80. Sheltering the young tree from the elements while it develops is the job of the cataphylls.
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