June 9 – Thicker than water

Today’s Factismal: Tree sap is about five times more viscous than water and about one tenth as viscous as the oil in your car.

Tree sap is wonderful stuff. Not only is it good on pancakes, it is better in the tree itself where there are two types of sap: xylem and phloem. The xylem sap carries minerals and other nutrients from the roots to the leaves, along with hormones that regulate the growth of the tree. It is maple xylem sap that we boil down for maple syrup and birch xylem sap that is drunk as a tonic in Eastern Europe. The phloem sap carries sugars from the leaves to the heartwood, where it is stored until needed. Interestingly, there are very few animals that will feed on the phloem sap, due to its lack of essential amino acids. (It is the tree equivalent of “empty calories”.)

A mangrove forest in Miami (My camera)

A mangrove forest in Miami
(My camera)

And sap isn’t the only benefit of trees, as anyone who has read Silverstein can attest. They provide shelter for animals, food for animals, plants, and other things, and add oxygen into the atmosphere. Some trees can live for more than 3,000 years. Others can tower 275 ft into the air, where still others get no larger than 3 inches tall! And some species of mangroves will hold the seeds until they have sprouted in order to give them a better chance at surviving the salt-water environment. In short, trees are neat things.

So naturally, scientists want to learn as much as they can about trees. If you’d like to help them by surveying the trees in your neighborhood and recording how they change over the seasons, then head on over to Tree Trackers!

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