How do Trees Defend Themselves: Defense Mechanism of a Tree

Avenue Trees Away Walk Green Nature Park

As humans, we all like being able to pick up and go wherever we want in life. We can ride a bike, walk, run, take a plane, or walk.

In fact, this fundamental part of our existence is taken for granted, right?

Picture yourself being a tree. A tree is stuck in a stationary position where it was initially planted forever. Can you imagine staying in one place forever? You’d better get used to your environment and surroundings rather quickly if you’re a tree and become genuinely adaptive.

There are four primary functions of a tree: 

  • Growth
  • Maintenance
  • Storage
  • Defense

Trees grow correctly when they have all the elements that they need and are not stressed. If a tree does not have adequate light, water, and nutrients, it will not likely commit too many resources toward new growth. Proper soil conditions (acidity), soil PH balance, and resources availability are essential in the growth process.

Trees obtain water and nutrients from the ground using their wild fibrous roots. If water and essential minerals are not available in the quantities necessary, a tree will store vital elements for later use. For instance, if a tree does not have sufficient water, it will hold water to get through months of drought spells.

A tree will allot its resources to defense if it is getting most of what it needs and is not stressed. Environmental conditions and soil decide whether a tree is stressed or not. If a tree is not stressed, it will likely stay in a preventative maintenance mode and concentrate on defense. 

For instance, a tree can thicken its bark layer to preserve its vascular cambium from outside predators. Did you know that a tree creates chemicals to protect itself from other competitors? Yes, a tree will send warning signals to its neighboring opponents, whether it is an insect, plant, or other close by animals. If a significant physical wound occurs, a tree properly compartmentalizes. Remember, humans heal, and trees seal!

Trees also know how to warn ‘hungry’ mammals and keep them away from eating them entirely. The Saliva from animals acts as catalysts for releasing chemicals from trees. When a tree recognizes the presence of Saliva at any part of its limbs that have been gnawed off, it sends the signal. The tree receives the signal from the bark and then releases a chemical known as ‘tannins.’ This chemical is bitter in taste and disgusts the mammal, as the tree is now less delicious and bitter. This is another strange yet powerful defense-mechanism technique employed by the trees.

A tree is really a power in the process of making something out of nothing or coming up with a way to sustain in harsh conditions. It cannot walk into a hospital and ask for an antibiotic. It does not have an immune system to combat a virus. But a tree will produce chemicals and close off its vascular system to outside organisms if being encroached. If a stressor is too much for a tree to overcome, then it will go into decay and potentially even die. 

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