Trees cover the world. Some are short and stubby, others are tall and majestic, towering over forests and casting a long shadow. The branches of trees may bear leaves, needles or long fronds. We use wood in everything from houses to canoes. Many trees have interesting origins and histories as well, making them one of nature's most varied, interesting and useful creations.
The giant sequoia tree can reach over 300 feet in height and has several features allowing it to survive and even thrive in challenging conditions. According to the American Museum of Natural History, the bark of sequoias is "unusually thick," which makes it resistant to fire and the seeds of the giant sequoia use nutrients contained in soil mineralised by fire. Some sequoias growing in California still produce large numbers of seed despite being over 300 years old. The trees can live for up to 2,000 years, according to Science Daily, which also says the largest sequoia, named General Sherman, has a volume of 52,510 cubic feet.
Often, when people think of trees, they imagine towering trunks and canopies of leaves. However, the dwarf willow, considered the world's smallest tree, grows only reaches heights of a little over two inches, according to the Types of Willow Trees website. The dwarf willow lives in cold climates in northern Canada, Iceland, and other frigid locales in Europe and North America. By growing close to the ground, the tree keeps itself warm as possible in freezing weather and grows very slowly to conserve energy. The National Park Service explains that dwarf willows also conceal themselves under a "blanket of snow that insulates and protects them during the harsh weather of the winter," allowing many of trees to keep their leaves year-round. Animals also rely on the sweet-tasting dwarf willow for food and it is used in traditional medicines to relieve things like toothache and indigestion.
The sap of many trees is sticky and amber in colour and nothing special unless it gets on clothes and can't be washed out. However, the sap of the dracaena draco tree is such an intense shade of red that it was long thought to be the blood of dragons, according to the U.S. Botanic Gardens. The dragon tree originates in the arid Canary Islands, but thanks to cultivation, is now a common houseplant, though very few remain in the Canaries. The Arkive website describes the tree as having prickly leaves, a long, thin trunk, and fragrant white and green flowers. In medieval Europe, the tree's sap was a folk medicine, due to its supposedly supernatural properties and today, it used in the manufacture incense, furniture polish and wood stain.