Have you ever seen a leafless tree full of flowers? It may come as a surprise, but there is nothing miraculous about it. When deciduous trees shed their leaves, it boosts the effectiveness of pollination, and this, in turn, increases their propensity to flower.
Did You Know?
Approximately 75 percent of the species of trees found in the eastern deciduous forest of North America are deciduous trees.
Deciduous trees are most often characterized by shedding of leaves in a particular season every year. Some of the most popular species belonging to this group include oak (genus Quercus), maple (genus Acer), birch (genus Betula), poplar (genus Populus), hickory (genus Carya), and ash (genus Fraxinus). These trees are found in the deciduous forest biomes in North America (including the United States), Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Facts About Deciduous Trees
Deciduous trees grow in regions where climatic conditions have a great seasonable temperature variance. On the world map, you can locate large tracts of deciduous forests in North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of South America and Australia. In the US, these trees cover nearly the entire eastern region, spanning from Minnesota to Maine up north and eastern Texas to Florida down south.
Based on their latitudinal extent, deciduous forests are classified into temperate deciduous forests and tropical and subtropical deciduous forests.
The annual ritual of shedding in deciduous trees can be attributed to water shortage. When the water available for the tree is minimal, it sheds its leaves to avoid dehydrating. Water shortage is faced in the dry season, wherein the ground water dries up, as well as in winter, wherein the ground water is frozen. The shedding period in deciduous species often coincides with the seasons.
The plants in the cold regions tend to shed in winter, while plants from the tropical areas tend to shed during the dry season. The leaves finally regrow in spring and the cycle begins all over again.
In spring, deciduous species hardly face water or food shortage. In fact, a healthy, full-grown oak can suck around 50 gallons of water through its roots every day. The food or water shortage comes into the picture during the winter and the dry seasons. To cope with this, these trees remove all the nitrogen and carbon from the leaves before they shed and store it in the form of proteins in the vacuoles of parenchyma.
Some species of deciduous trees, like the oak for instance, are known to have a long lifespan, with some trees even crossing the 200-year mark. In fact, the Wye oak―a white oak tree on the eastern shore of Maryland―is believed to be around 400 years old. This particular oak is considered the largest white oak tree in the United States, standing 105 ft tall, measuring 32 ft in circumference, and sporting a crown spread of 158 ft.
These trees can grow up to 100 ft in height, with some specimen easily crossing 120 ft. They also cover a large area, with some species sporting a spread of 60 ft on an average. The eastern cottonwood, for instance, attains a height of 130 ft at full-growth, while the horse-chestnut attains a height of 118 ft. Then there are some exceptions which can reach 150 ft in some cases; the Dawn redwood (Metasequoia) is one of the best examples of the same.
This group of trees has one of the fastest growing shade trees in the world, the weeping willow. It grows at a tremendous speed, attaining a height of around 10 ft within a year. Other species which are known for their fast growth rate include the Lombardy poplar, northern red oak, quaking aspen, willow oak, etc. You also have the option of going for hybrids of poplars and willows.
While resorting to the Weeping Willow, one has to take a note of the root system. If the particular species has a shallow root system, you should not plant it close to your home or electricity lines.
Deciduous trees are used by humans for various purposes. One of the rarest oak species, the Cork oak is called so because the wood of this tree is used to make bottle corks of some of the finest brands of wine in the world. Similarly, the English oak is the first choice for landscape architecture around an estate home.
While the trees in themselves are widely used as shade trees, the wood of some of these species is used as fuel, timber for buildings, sculpting, etc. Maple trees are widely known for the maple syrup―a sweetener made from the sap of these trees.
Deciduous trees in themselves are marvelous creations of nature which add to the elegance of any landscape with an array of colors, ranging from various shades of yellow and orange to golden crown. While we are aware of these facts, there are several others that are yet to be discovered. After all, every tree in itself has a world of surprises woven around it.