Magazine: The life of trees

Trees have always fascinated people. They are the biggest living things on our planet and one of the most beautiful. Trees appear in many religions and have inspired artists for thousands of years.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercise.

When I was a child I read a science fiction story that made me think about trees in a new way. In the story, visitors from an advanced civilisation come to our planet and their spaceship lands in the middle of a forest. The aliens have a long conversation with the trees of the forest and then leave again, happy to think that the inhabitants of Earth are noble, intelligent and peaceful. Trees have always fascinated people. They are the biggest living things on our planet and one of the most beautiful. Trees appear in many religions and have inspired artists for thousands of years.

The oldest trees

Trees are also the oldest living organisms on earth. They are a direct link with thousands of years of history. The great age of trees makes them useful for all sorts of scientific research. The rings inside a tree are particularly useful to tell scientists about changes in the climate that happened many thousands of years ago, before written records were kept.

The oldest living organism on earth is a bristlecone pine tree which grows in the USA. It is about 4,700 years old – which means that it was growing when the Egyptians built the Pyramids.

Sri Maha Bodhi is a banyan tree growing in Sri Lanka. It is the oldest tree in the world that has a recorded history – of more than 23 centuries. It is worshipped by more than 2,000 people daily because it is believed to be a sapling from the original tree that Buddha sheltered under in India over 2,500 years ago.

The gingko tree is one of the oldest species of tree still living today. We know that it was living 160 million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Watch out for it if you see a dinosaur film like Jurassic Park! But gingko fossils disappeared about seven million years ago. Scientists thought that it was extinct until it was discovered in Japan in 1691. Buddhist monks had continued to cultivate the tree. Today it is popular in parks and gardens and is widely used in natural medicine.

The community of trees

Trees may have a lot to teach us about being part of a community and how co-operation is better for a society than competition. Scientists are only just beginning to understand how it all works, but we now know that a community of trees growing together share all of the available resources with each other. So, strong trees in a good position will share food and water with weaker trees that receive less sunlight. They do this through their roots, through the soil and also through the networks of tiny fungi that grow in the soil between them.

And they don't only share with trees of the same species – any type of tree can benefit. A community of trees makes itself stronger by working together. The roots of giant redwood trees, for example, grow together under the ground. It's as if they are holding hands. This means that they are much stronger when there are heavy winds or floods.

Trees that are grown in city conditions do not live as long as trees that grow in a natural environment, maybe because they are more isolated. And people who work with trees know that a community with a good mixture of different species is stronger and more resistant to insects and diseases.

The energy of trees

It has been proved that patients in hospital get better faster, feel less pain and go home quicker if there are trees outside the windows of their rooms. Spiritual and religious teachers for many years have been telling their students to learn from trees, to notice their stillness and strength and try to imitate it. It is true that trees absorb enormous amounts of energy from the sun – more than any other living thing. And some people believe that you can feel this energy if you choose a tree that you feel attracted to, put your arms around it and stay there holding it for a while.

This 'tree-hugging' is believed to be good for stress, make you sleep better and help you to feel more positive and calm. And more and more people are doing it. The Irish politician Gerry Adams once told a journalist that he regularly hugged trees. He said that it gave him a sense of calm and strength.

We all know that trees are essential for the environment and the survival of our planet. Perhaps they have even more to offer us in the future.



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


Trees and other green plants are the source of energy for all animal life to live and grow. Through the process of photosynthesis plants change light energy from the sun into chemical energy that is stored in the plant as carbohydrates (sugars) as it grows.

It's amazing that people are trying to encourage other people to take care of our trees.I love trees and I love how the author made it interesting.

Note, this comment is made by Benafsha and the account holder is my daddy.

I'm wondering why, in the first paragraph, the writer used the present tense though he is telling story e.g(lands,have, leave)?

Hello MAG22

The present tense is frequently used to tell stories about the past. You can see a bit more about this on our Present tense page -- look for the Advanced level section, where you'll see some other examples.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

The article is awesome I read it carefully to get the core idea and meaning of it. Like you said trees are playing a huge role in out life and we need to be careful when we are cutting them down.
yes I do like trees and until now I didn't know that hugging trees can have effect on us,so now i'm going to hug one to see either it has effect or not.

Even I know the role of tree in our life and enviroment. Tree gives us all of it's part, such as roots, leaves, wood, fruit... that we have food, material of building house, funiture... but thanks for this article I know more information that we can get power from tree when we hug it. Oh, I really feel comfortable, relax, peaceful in a place where there are a lot of tree. That's why I plant many green trees in my tiny gadern. It's the first time I know that tree has mutual life among not only the same species but among different ones. It's so great!

"The aliens in the story got the wrong idea about the inhabitants of earth."
This question means what? In this story aliens thought the inhabitants of earth are noble, intelligent and peaceful. But we are not . This is shame for us. We should polite to trees.

Cultivate more and more trees if we want save our extinction.

Firstly, I would like to thank you for choosing such an important and actual subject for these days. Other than I really enjoyed reading the text, I have learned some new information about trees, their behaviors and what benefit they can give to the whole habitant on earth especially to the human being . Thus, I’d like to add some information that might be useful and enriches our knowledge about the oldest tree in the world.
Lebanese Cedar, which appears on the Lebanese flag, is one of the oldest trees in the world-if not the oldest. I believe that the Cedar tree deserves to be mentioned in such essay as well. These trees exist for more than 5000 years. They were mentioned in the Bible and even in the first and oldest legend in the world “Gilgamesh”.
When old Egyptians were building the great Pyramids, the Cedars’ wood was imported from Lebanon as building material and was used to furnish the Pyramids interior as well. Not to mention Phoenicians’ ships and King’s Solomon Temple who were made from the Lebanese Cedar as well. A few evidence I’m giving just to make you imagine the Cedar’s tree age.
The Cedar inspires lot of writers and poets. There has been written tons of poems towards its majesty. And here is some strokes by "John K Trainer":

I Walk through the lonely ancient woods
And hear the voices of Cedars of Lebanon …
A felled branch reveals the wound
That smells of comfort and wisdom
Your knots are like the eyes of God
Scrutinizing my every intentions …

The Cedars forest still alive, standing through all these long years, challenging all the weather caprice, all kind of men carelessness and negligence. It will always be standing, presenting its majestic and glory.
I hope one day you could visit this small forest in Lebanon to discover by yourself the holy Cedar place that we call “The Cedars Of God”.

oh bueno

It's a pity there's no audio for this article.
The topic is very interesting, especially I liked the scrap about energy and being in community of co-operation not competition. I can feel it when I walk through the forest.