People all over the world use the World Wide Web to communicate and help each other. A forest is a collection of trees – how do they communicate? The Wood Wide Web, of course! Scientists have discovered that, under the ground, individual trees are connected in a network that helps them share information and resources.
Trees have roots that stretch out underground to support themselves and find water and nutrients. Attached to the roots are fungi that send out very fine threads called mycelia, which join on to mycelia attached to the roots of other trees, creating a big ‘web’.
Some big trees use this web to share their nutrients with young seedlings that are trying to grow. When one tree is attacked, perhaps by greenfly, the web lets other trees know, and they can prepare their defences – like how YOU might take vitamin C to protect yourself when your friend gets a cold!
How Do Trees Drink?
- Water enters the root through tiny root hairs.
- The tree’s roots stretch far underground to find water in the soil. The root system can be up to seven times bigger than the ‘crown’ of the tree!
- In the tree trunk, the water travels up in tubes called xylem vessels.
- The xylem vessels carry the water into all the branches to reach the leaves.
- The leaves use the water and sunlight to make energy and what is left over goes out into the world through small holes in the leaf called stomata. As the water leaves, the tree cools down – like how we sweat!
Complete the Tree Maze…
Try these tree-based experiments. All you need is to get outside where there are some trees!
Forecast the weather with a pine cone
- Collect pine cones (one will do, but why not get a small collection?) and set them somewhere safe like a windowsill. Use some sticky tack so they stay standing up.
- Each morning you can check the weather by looking at your pine cones.
>>> If the pine cone is open, it will be dry.
>>> If the pine cone is closed up, it is due to rain.
What’s the science?
Pine cones contain lots of feather-light seeds. It’s best for the tree if the seeds can fly far away from the tree before landing and – hopefully – growing into a pine tree where there’s enough space. It’s easier for the seeds to travel further on a dry day. Pine cones can tell how much water is in the air. So, on wet days, the cone closes up, to keep the seeds inside until the weather is fine, when it will open up and let the seeds go.
Even inside your home, the pine cones behave in the same way – and can show you how likely it is to rain.
Measure the height of a tree!
You will also need a tape measure.
- Choose a tree to measure.
- Bend over and look up through your legs (upside down) until you can just see the top of the tree.
- If you can’t see the top of the tree, move further away. If you can see lots of sky above the tree, move closer to it until the top of the tree is just at the top of your view.
- You are as far away from the tree as the tree is high! Mark the spot.
- Now you can measure the height of the tree by measuring the distance from where you are standing to the tree.
How to measure the distance.
Be creative! Here are some ideas:
- Use a tape measure if you have one long enough!
- Count the paces as you walk towards the tree. Measure how long one of your paces is and multiply it by the number of paces to work out the distance.
- Ask an adult to do the same thing. Do you take the same number of steps as an adult? Did you come up with the same result?
- Measure how tall you are then lie down to find out how many ‘yous’ make up the height of the tree.
- Get a group of friends to help you by stretching in a chain from the tree to the marker. Measure one friend at full stretch then multiply that by the number of friends.
What’s the science?
This way of measuring is only as an estimate, but if you bend over at 45° then you know that the two sides of this triangle that make up the height of the tree and your distance from the tree are the same.
This is called trigonometry and it was discovered by the ancient Egyptians more than 4,000 years ago!
This Science & Nature article for kids is extracted from issue #2 of children’s magazine, Brilliant Brainz.
Back issues and subscriptions are available to purchase from the SHOP link above.
Why not treat your ‘bright spark’ to a leading edge adventure of creativity and discovery?