SciSun: Keepin’ it green

A few weeks ago we talked a little about leaves changing color and falling from trees and other plants in the Autumn – the Deciduous plants. But there’s also a different type of plant that stays green all year round – and conveniently, they’re called Evergreens!

Evergreen plants (there are trees and also some shrubs that are evergreen) do lose their leaves gradually all year, but new leaves immediately start growing back to take the place of those that have fallen. Unlike deciduous, evergreens can be either broad-leaved, with leaves that are large and flat like deciduous; or thin and compact needle leaves. And here’s where it gets more confusing; all conifers – trees that have hard cones with many nuts or seeds inside, like pine, cedar, and fir trees – are evergreens. So are some shrubs like holly and rhododendrons. But there are also some trees that look like they would be deciduous, that are actually evergreen! Magnolias and some types of oak trees keep their leaves all year, while other plants around them drop their leaves in the winter.

So why do the evergreens keep their leaves? Well it makes them look pretty all year round. But that probably isn’t the main reason. Leaves help the tree make food, so by keeping leaves all year, the tree doesn’t have to worry about storing a large amount of food or running low during the winter. Also, leaves help keep the tree warm and protected, provide homes for animals, and can be decorated during the Holidays to look festive. But that just goes back to the idea of looking pretty all year round. Maybe that IS one reason these trees are evergreen…..

Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan

Pines, pines, as far as you can see! And some ferns, too.

Dig Deeper!

There are lots of great places to learn more about Evergreens. Here are a few to get you started:

http://oregonstate.edu/trees

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibits/biomes/forests.php

http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/contents/700/0741/0741_txt.html

And always check out your local library!

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