Friday, July 12, 2019

Pondering tree leaves and needles

By Robert Fogg

The leaves or needles on a tree have many functions and purposes.  They absorb energy from sunlight, draw oxygen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pull water and nutrients from the soil. The combination of these functions enables the tree to add layers of growth cells. 

Leaves and needles also act as shelter and screening or camouflage for small birds and animals.  Leaves serve as food for various browsing creatures, even as buds, during the winter and spring, before they mature. The shape of each leaf dictates how it will react to weather conditions.  Have you ever seen and heard Quaking Aspen leaves rustling in even the slightest breeze?  Have you ever seen maple leaves turn upside down, exposing their lighter underside, as a telltale sign of an approaching thunder shower? Every tree species has its own signature leaf pattern, enabling us a clue to identification. 

No two species’ leaves are identical. And, come fall the colors are just as different. Apparently, each species of leaf has its own taste too as evident by the preferences of certain insects. I’ve always marveled at the fact that a Gypsy Moth Caterpillar prefers pine needles to maple leaves.  If I’m ever given a choice between eating pine needles or maple leaves, you can bet I’ll choose the maple leaves. Wouldn’t you?

The Author is General Manager of Naples-based Q-Team Tree Service and is a Licensed Arborist. You can contact him at 207-693-3831 or at

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