Coniferous trees covered in snow conjure a majestic image of winter, trimmed with lights and decorations we feel the excitement of the holiday season! And although we can’t imagine evergreens not being a part of our winter memories, we have to wonder- Why are coniferous trees immune to seasonal changes while deciduous trees are not? What if deciduous trees didn’t lose their leaves in the fall?
We turned to some experts for answers. We learned why conifers stay green and why deciduous trees lose their leaves- and it’s not all because of photosynthesis!
And of course, we had to test the theory- find out what happened!!
Here is an activity to try at home or in your classroom!
We tried it! And it successfully demonstrated how the shape of coniferous trees shed the snow, while deciduous trees hold much more weight. So cool!
Why do deciduous trees lose their leaves in fall while coniferous trees do not? The answer is fascinating. Find out the fascinating science here:
Coniferous trees covered in snow conjure a majestic image of winter, trimmed with lights and decorations, we feel the excitement of the holiday season! This contrasts with the empty limbs of the mighty maple, oak, birch, and other deciduous trees we see all around us in the forest during the winter. But have you ever wondered why coniferous trees keep their leaves while all around them the deciduous trees lose them? Well the science behind it is quite interesting.
Let’s start with the deciduous trees and why they lose their leaves. They lose their leaves. The answer is simply that the tree is shedding its waste in the fall to get ready for winter. Deciduous trees go into a state of hibernation as winter brings less sun, less water, and cold temperatures down upon the tree making the leaves useless as they are no longer creating food for the tree. Also as a fun side fact this is why deciduous trees’ leaves change colour as Chlorophyll makes the leaves green. When a tree stops producing Chlorophyll the leaves’ true colour shines through (The Kinders and Forest Friday actually did an experiment to find the true colour of the leaves a few weeks ago). But back to our talk on why deciduous trees lose their leaves. If deciduous trees kept their leaves it could lead to serious harm to the tree. The leaves would allow more snow to accumulate and add extra weight onto the branches. This extra weight could lead to broken branches and other serious harm to the tree. So, with this extra waste that the tree doesn’t need that could cause it serious harm it instead chooses to lose the leaves.
But so, if there are benefits to deciduous trees losing their leaves why don’t coniferous trees? The answer lies within the leaves/needles of the coniferous tree. Coniferous tree needles are tightly rolled leaves. This shape helps the tree conserve water throughout the fall and winter months. The needles also have a waxy coating to them that helps keep water from evaporating. This combined with high concentrations of substances that help lower the freezing point of water within the tree allow the needles to be both more resistant to the cold and also stay still wet during the winter. By not losing their needles all at once coniferous trees also don’t have to spend the energy every year to regrow an entire canopy of leaves in the spring that deciduous trees have to. Lastly the coniferous trees are also shaped to allow snow to slide off the needles and branches of the trees unlike the deciduous trees allowing them to not have to worry about extra weight of their needles or branches breaking (Click here for an activity you can try) . In saying all that thought, coniferous trees do lose their needles, just not all at once like the deciduous trees. You might have noticed needles that turn yellow, brown, or reddish on the tree that eventually fall off.
I bet that you thought that leaves ‘wood’ never be so fascinating.
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