Trees are majestic beings. You have to look at them closely, spend time with your fingers touching the rough bark, looking up at the leaves high in the sky to really understand what a fantastic creature you are looking at. You read about giants and warriors and protectors in fairy tales. Well, trees are the giant-warrior-protectors of our world.
They stand quietly watching over the earth, making sure you have air to breathe, water to drink and a soft spot under their shade to lie down on, when you really need the rest. Forests give a safe home to animals as big as lions and as small as furry rabbits. They are home to plants, little creepy crawly insects, giant birds and their little babies.
If you could take one day off and spend it on something – make it a day you spend in the middle of a forest. What you would learn sitting down on the ground looking up – looking around, would fill you with wonder, it would teach you about the world, nature and life – much more than you can ever learn watching shows on tv sitting comfortably on a sofa.
Only when you feel clear cool water running over your fingers and toes, the gust of wind ruffling your little pony tail, the smell of nothing but fresh air and tree leaves – only then, will you understand why grown ups keep fussing over camping and treks and trips to a forest.
Getting to know a forest is like getting to know a great great old grandma…she is filled with stories of ancient earth. There is a story unravelling every minute around you – under a rock there would be a family of insects and worms hurrying home with a little food they found. High on the tree branches, there is a papa building a cozy nest because the mumma is to have babies soon. He has to make sure the nest is safe from bigger birds and snakes. The babies will stay here untill they can learn to fly.
When it starts to rain, little animals scurry under bushes and into burrows to keep themselves warm. Who knows, maybe this is when they sit around it is story-time for little ones..
The rain drops fall hard, but the trees of a forest protect everything like a big huge umbrella. They allow drops to only softly trickle down over the ground. The soil soaks the water up like a thirsty sponge and lets it come up through a spring. Small springs let out water slowly now, but the flow is naughty. It rushes out, looking for others. Somehow they all catch up and become a mighty river and waterfall over the big boulders.
There is so much magic and action happening in a forest – even in one single tree that it could fill you with stories for a lifetime.
I hope you take up the very next chance you get to visit a forest. Don’t fuss about the little ants that went up your feet, or the mosquitoes that keep buzzing in your ear. Get past all these and soak in the forest’s beauty. Take in every sound, every buzz, every little touch and look around – really look at everything around you. A forest is a giant straight from your fairy tales. Who knows, if you slowed down and looked – maybe you will actually see the magic happening..
I know you are locked up at home for days now. But this is not going to last very long. Soon you will be able to start going out to play. Maybe soon after that, you will get to take small holidays just outside the city. Make sure you plan at least one holiday to a forest.
Now, just because we are in lockdown, doesn’t mean you can’t plan for that. How about we start a club – call it little beforestor. You can be part of the club if you promise, you will learn wherever there is, to learn about trees, plants and the entire forest. You don’t have to learn it all in a day. You can learn a little each day as you grow up. One of you might even become a forest explorers and teach others about the great giants of the earth!
Here we go..make sure you let us know your thoughts – what you would like to learn too
Trees and forests fascinate me. I feel safe and loved among them. I and my friends at Beforest will do our best to share all the knowledge we have about trees, forests, soil, water and the earth.
I am starting off with the basics. Let’s get to know a single tree.
Just like you and me, trees have different parts and there is a lot happening inside and around them. Here are the parts of a tree.
I will start with the roots, they are very interesting and very important to the tree too!
The roots of a tree grow a little on the surface and a lot under the soil, sometimes they go down deep as 20 feet into the earth! A tree doesn’t have just one root. Each tree has its own family of roots – the Main root, lateral roots and root hair or tertiary roots.
Here are the top 3 things root do for the tree:
- Roots are the feet of the tree
- Roots are like straws for the tree
- Roots help the tree talk to its family, friends and neighbors
Roots are the feet of the tree
Roots growing on the ground and under, are like feet for the tree. While your feet help you walk, jump or run, the roots of a tree help it stay in one place. Roots can be so strong that Roots help the tree stand up even when they are fully grown big and tall. They go deep into the soil and make sure the tree doesn’t go flying even when there is a strong breeze! Isn’t that great!
Roots are like straws for the tree
Just like you, trees need food and water to grow big and strong. While you drink water from a glass or a bottle, what do you think trees do when they get thirsty?
They use their roots!
Roots and its root family act like big giant straws for trees. They go deep and wide into the soil looking for water and nutrition (minerals). The root hair absorbs water and minerals through a process called osmosis. Once water is absorbed, it moves up towards the leaves, through the trunk of the tree. This water is used by trees to cook their food. We will get to that in just a bit.
Roots help the tree talk to its family, friends and neighbors
Trees are living beings. Just like you, they like to stay in touch with their surroundings. Like grown ups use messages, calls and chats to know what’s going on around them, trees constantly talk to their family, friends and neighbors too.
But when trees can’t move or talk, how do they communicate with each other? They use their roots!
In a forest, trees share all their wisdom, food and supplies to the younger ones around them. They do this, through a vast network that runs under the soil and across the forest with help from their friends – fungi. There is a special name given to this friendship – mycorrhizae. The pronunciation is a bit tricky – Mykoraizaee.
How does this work?
Fungus friends of a tree start growing and living on the roots. They grow their own branches called hyphae. This hyphae grows and reaches out to hyphae coming from fungus friends of other trees and plants. All this takes many years. It happens quietly under the soil. You won’t even know and it’s happening right now! There is a special name for the network of fungi roots too. It is called mycelium.
Eventually, all the trees,plants and fungi are connected to each other. It’s like a big huge family of grown ups and kids holding each other’s hands. Signals, food, water, nutrients and carbon are quietly sent from one member of the family to the others..all under the ground.
The oldest trees in a forest are generally the tallest or the widest ones. They are called hub trees. You can think of them as mumma trees. They are connected to most numbers of plants and trees around.
Tree roots not only take care of the tree, they also take care of the soil they grow in. Do you know how?
Roots grow deep and wide into the soil. As they grow, they break up hard soil and make way for air and water to get into the soil. Well aerated soil is great for trees and plants and little creatures of the forest. They hold the soil under them so that when there is heavy rain or wind, the top layer is not washed away or blown away. The top layer of soil is the most fertile. It has a lot of nutrients that are great plant food. In return, some tree roots add nitrogen to the soil, making it richer. This is a process called Nitrogen fixation.
When roots go down deep, they make way for water to seep into the soil deeper too.
I hope you are as fascinated as me and look closer at plants and trees around you
I am leaving you now with an activity.
1) I want you to think about any movie, any story, any trip that you made to a forest. Remember the little details that you can.
2) Make a new journal.
3) Right down or draw what you remember of the forest. There may have been some seeds the trees dropped, a secret path that went winding down to the river side, or maybe you saw leaves of the color or shape that you would not see in the city around you.
4) Share it with me
Let’s learn what we can – from each other and plan the next thing we want to do in our club!
Please ask any grown ups in your family to send us a picture of your drawings or journals. We would LOVE to hear from you. I would love to read your stories or see your pictures. We can share each other’s experiences till we can get out and make more wonderful discoveries!