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Tree Knowledge



When working with a tree it must borne in mind,

a tree can only go without water,

for as long as you can keep your head under water.

We must truly understand the workings and the needs of a tree before we can manipulate a tree to grow the way we want it to develop. We do not force a tree, but we guide it with tender loving care, the way we want it to change.


A tree is like a human!!! The root system of a tree are the hands reaching out to collect food namely : oxygen, minerals, trace elements and moisture which are to be transported through the veins, a conveyer system just beneath the bark called the sapwood, up to the kitchens, the leaves, where it is mixed with carbon dioxide, which is taken in from the atmosphere through the leaves and baked by the rays of the sun. This process we call photosynthesis. The growing sugars are then sent back to the tree and roots as a source of growth. Excessive water is discarded of, by transpiring, cooling off the leaves in the heat and the waste product oxygen, that is so vital for humans, are released in the atmosphere.


A seed must first die, to be able to start living and to grow.

A tree can survive without a human being, but we cannot survive without trees.

As a tree grows and goes through the yearly cycle, many things happen that we are not aware of.

I call it natures self perseverance.

The Tree


Think about it. A tree in the veld stands in the rain and the falling water washes off the leaves, the leaves rot and become compost to the soil.  The rain water penetrates into the soil it takes oxygen and dissolved compost with it into the soil, an ingredient needed by the roots. The water dissolves the trace and micro elements  in the soil which is taken up by the roots. Sent up to the leaves to be turned into food then sent back to the tree as growth. When spring starts, new growth appears and flowers and fruit start to form, in autumn when leaves fall to the ground the fruit of the tree ripen. Winter rain falls and the sheded leaves on the ground start to rot, preparing organic compost for the roots. When the winter wind blows, the ripe fruit falls to the ground and die. A low winter temperature is needed by the fresh seed enabling it to die and then germinate in spring so a new plant is produced. Every year the same cycle is repeated.


The Root System

When a seed is planted the root system starts to grow first, enabling the seed to collect food. The new small root digs deep into the soil, subdividing into multiple new feeder roots, creating more hands to help search for moisture containing minerals. While the network of roots develops underneath the soil, it also acts as an anchor to hold the new seedling upright.

Whatever happens beneath the soil, will always happen on top of the soil. A tree with a healthy root system will always have a vigorous top crown.

A rich well drained soil is necessary for the root system of a tree. Various minerals and trace elements are taken in by the fine feeder roots that are dissolved and captured in air pockets between soil particles. When water is applied to the surface, it seeps through the soil. Oxygen is pulled into the soil, thus another vital element is added for a healthy root development

The root system of a tree


The Trunk

The trunk of a tree is the main transport link between the fine feeder roots and the leaves. It acts as the skeleton to support the branches and the foliage. The trunk thickens yearly and strengthens to compensate for the increasing size of the top crown. The trunk consists of five main different layers:

1. The bark

The bark is the outer layer of the trunk and acts as a waterproof shield to protect the food transport pipeline in the next three layers. It also allows photosynthesis to proceed in winter when a deciduous tree is without leaves.
This is the reason why a tree without leaves in winter still needs a certain amount of sunlight. A dormant tree does not stop functioning, it only slows the whole process of photosynthesis down.

2. The Phloem

The phloem is the only, layer generator, of all the cells that form the distinct layers of a tree trunk. It acts as the downwards transportation layer that directs the processed food called, carbohydrate glucose, from the leaves to the rest of the tree to induce growth.

3. The Cambium Layer

The cambium layer develops to the outside as new phloem cells and to the inside as new xylem cells. It acts as an insulator between the prepared down coming and the unprepared upgoing food.

4. Softwood

The xylem cells are the pipeline that transports the unprocessed food, namely : minerals, trace elements, oxygen and water to the leaves. These open-ended cells form rows of cylinders and as they age, they become part of the heartwood.

5. Heartwood

The heartwood is the skeleton of the tree. The older xylem cells that became part of the heartwood in the current season, are used as the storage place of food in autumn. Food is deposited in the soft ageing xylem cells to be stored and protected during winter, released in spring to be taken up by the new xylem cells to form the new healthy growth for summer. The ageing xylem cells also form the year ring in the trunk that tells us how old the tree is.

The trunk of a tree


The Branches and Leaves

Branches are identical thinner extentions of the tree trunk, and are spread in such a way as to allow the tree maximum availability of sunlight and air circulation on the leaves.

The only exception is that branches produce mainly growing tips which develops leaves. In spring, new shoots are formed from the previous year’s auxiliary buds. Where last season’s leaves were attached to the twigs, new growing tips emerge which extends the height and spread of the top crown. On these new shoots, leaves are formed to manufacture food.

On a branch, where there is a leaf today,a new growing tip will develop next growing season, from the auxiliary bud, that is premature, manufactured and protected by the leaf stem where it is connected to the branch. Nature always provides for the future. In summer, after the leaves are formed, auxiliary buds emerge to be triggered as new growth, in case the leaf is damaged, to form a new secondary growing tip. If not, the auxiliary bud is dormant and waits there until next spring to be triggered, forming the new year’s growing cycle again.

Leaves are the “kitchens” of the tree,where the raw materials, collected by the roots,are being prepared and “baked” to form growing sugars.

A leaf should always have lots off resh air circulation and sunrays to be able to function correctly. If this does not happen, the tree’s condition deteriorates, because of incorrect prepared food. The end result………while the immune system of the tree is not functional, various insects and diseases will attack the tree.

A leaf is made up of five basic layers.

1. The first layer iscalled the Upper epidermis " is transparent and acts as a shielded window that controls the water evaporation, and allows the sunrays through to the second layer, called the Palisade layer, the actual “oven” of the leaf.

2. The second layer is the energy-using part of the leaf, housing the green pigment called "Chlorophyll " The raw material t aken in by the roots namely: trace elements, minerals, oxygen and water are mixed with carbon dioxide,then taken in by the leaf,to be “baked” and processed with the sun rays to growing sugars called carbohydrate glucose. The waste product oxygen is released into the atmosphere. The excessive water is released by transpiration, to cool off the leaf, to maintain the correct heat, needed in the “stove” to “bake” the “food” correctly, at the desired temperature.

3. The third layer is the skeleton of the leaf and is made up of hundreds of small pipe like structures which regulates the unprepared and the processed food to and from the leaf. This layer, called "The ribs and veins " is directly connected to the phloem and softwood layers of the branch, a further smaller extension of the trunk. .

4. The forth layer is called "The spongy mesophyll layer " This layer consists of loose spongy cells, which acts as the mixing bowl of the leaf. In this layer air flows freely to mix the carbon dioxide, water, minerals, trace elements and oxygen into a paste to be processed in the second layer. .

5. The fifth layer found at the bottom of the leaf is called the" Lower epidermis " This layer has millions of tiny valves similar to pores called stomata. Each stomata has cells like inlet valves for carbon dioxide intake and outlet valves for discard of the waste product oxygen, and the water to be transpired to control the correct leaf temperature for the food production.