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Nature

14 Amazing Tree Facts to Impress Your Hiking Partners

Trees are remarkable. Wow your hiking partners with these fun facts.

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Backpacker readers went wild over our list of nature fun facts to impress your hiking partners. Well, there’s more where that came from. Break out these arbor-inspired tidbits on your next forest ramble, and your buddies will think you the smartest hiker in all the woods.

willow tree
Willow Photo: Stephanie Watson
  1. Willow bark has been called “nature’s aspirin,” as it is an anti-inflammatory and mild pain reliever. It can be made into a tea, capsules, or sometimes even chewed straight off the tree
  2. The bark of Douglas firs can be up to a foot thick. And sequoia bark can be up to 3 feet thick!
  3. Do see a tree surrounded by another, webbed and vine-like tree? You’ve discovered a “strangler fig,” a group of tropical plants that grow as parasites on bigger trees. Starting as bird-dispersed seeds, strangler figs sprout in trees’ crevices then send roots downward, eventually choking off light to their hosts. Often, the original tree dies and rots away, leaving a hollow latticework tree where the host once stood.
  4. Birch bark is waterproof. It also makes a great fire-starter, as it’s flammable even when wet.
  5. Black walnut trees release a poisonous substance into the soil through their roots to inhibit competition from other plants.
    Gingko leaves
    Gingko leaves Photo: Leighklotz
  6. Gingko trees are the oldest species of tree in the world. Paleontologists have found very similar species in fossils from the mid-Jurassic.
  7. Cottonwood trees grow fast—they can add up to 6 feet of height each year. 
  8. Bristlecone pines are the most ancient individual trees on the planet at almost 5,000 years. The world’s oldest known living tree, Methuselah, over 4,800 years old, grows in California’s Inyo National Forest. Its exact location is a secret. 
  9. Redwoods can grow over 300 feet tall—but their roots are shallow, only about 6 feet beneath the ground. They extend far from the tree’s base (up to 100 feet) for stability. Roots from different redwood trees intertwine with one another for additional support. We can all use a little help from our friends!
  10. “Serotinous” pine cones enclose their seeds within a thick, hard resin that only melts under the extreme heat of a fire. Trees with serotinous cones (like lodgepole pines) only release their seeds when a forest fire burns in the area, allowing them to thrive in fire-affected areas. 
  11. Quaking aspens are the most widely distributed trees in North America. They can be found in 37 states.
  12. Over 100 years ago, American chestnut trees were abundant throughout the eastern US. The trees were prized for their edible nuts that fed people and livestock, their rot-resistant wood that was used for building and furniture-making, and their pleasing forms. But in 1904, blight was discovered, all but exterminating the American chestnut over the next few decades. The blight has been called “the greatest ecological disaster to strike the world’s forests in all of history.”  
  13. Neighboring trees can communicate with one another through fungus in the soil. They share water, nutrients, and can even transmit messages of distress when they’re suffering from drought or disease. 
  14. There are roughly 3.04 trillion trees on earth today. Go hug a tree!

Hooked on flora? Take our Identifying Wild Plants online course to learn what you can eat, what you can’t, and how to spot all sorts of greenery when you hit the trail.