Wood you believe it?
Wood is really a fascinating thing and so are the trees it comes from so let’s explore some of the wonderful facts about the material that we use for so many things from paper to timber frame housing.
The names softwood and hardwood refer to the types of seeds and leaves they produce rather than the strength of the wood and there are 23000 different kinds of trees. Due to pollution, city trees live for an average of 13 years less than trees in the countryside. British Oak trees can live for 500 years and we might have even more of them if Henry VIII hadn’t plundered nearly all of them for his warships.
Some pines are perhaps more than 5000 years old and there is a tree at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is nearer 6000 years old. If you think that can’t be beaten then the Yew Tree in Perthshire could be as old as 9000 years.
Some clever trees can even talk to each other. When Willow trees are threatened by pests, they send out a chemical warning to nearby trees who have time to give off tannin to ward off the invaders. Softwoods account for 80% of the world’s timber production but softwoods are not always softer than hardwoods. Softwoods come from evergreens and hardwood from deciduous trees. For more information on building with timber, see http://www.qtfhomes.co.uk/.
The biggest tree in the world is called ‘General Sherman’ and is a sequoia in California. Standing at an impressive 274.9 feet with a girth at base of 102.6 feet! The honour of the widest tree, however, goes to an African Baobab with a circumference of 155 feet. The world’s heaviest wood is found in Australia and is called Bauhinia Red.
Trees are essential for the health of the planet and just one tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2 in a year, which is vital in the fight against climate change. The Amazon basin is the largest area of tropical forest on the planet with a staggering 8.5 million acres. Knowing the good trees do with CO2 emissions, it is essential that these forest areas are protected.
Wood fuel is totally sustainable if forests are managed properly and in fact trees never die of old age, they are always killed off by insects, diseases or people. Left to their own devices, these beautiful life giving plants would live forever.