In the summer of 2011 I fell in love with trees. It happened on the final week of a Sabbatical, while taking a tree identification course in southern Ohio’s Arc of Appalachia. During that week I walked with a small group and a passionate guide through some our country’s best preserved deciduous forests, right in my home state. We were taught not just the names of these trees, but also their personalities, their stories, their way of relating with one another. I had no idea.
I’m a pastor and not a biologist, but ever since then it has been clear to me that trees, and the life systems they support – including humans – are all a part of the same beloved community.
Phloem (FLOW-em) and Xylem (ZY-lem) serve as the circulatory system for trees. Trees, like just about all other plants, have the ridiculous ability to make their own food out of thin air (plus sun and water) and phloem transports those photosynthesized sugars to all other parts of the tree. Xylem are located slightly more interior to the trunk and get good stuff from the other direction – taking in water and minerals through the roots and distributing it as needed throughout the tree. In between these tissues is the cambium where the magic really happens – stem cells becoming new phloem and xylem each year. Old phloem joins up with the bark to become skin. Old xylem becomes good ole’ wood, the skeletal system of trees.
All sorts of other interesting stuff happens in the life of trees. Just one example: Tree roots connect up with the mycellium of fungi underground and form a mutually beneficial relationship. The tree feeds the fungi sugars it has photosynthesized up in its leaves, and the fungi go and get water and minerals for the tree far beyond the reach of the tree roots.
Basically, the more I learn about trees the more I want to be like them.
This blog is a small attempt to be more like phloem and xylem, channeling goodness to whoever wants to tap in, and welcoming the wisdom far beyond my reach to flow back in whatever way it would.