Ledig, F. Thomas Institute of Forest Genetics, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Berkeley, California.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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- Age and size
- Zonation and distribution
- Morphology and physiology
- Phylogeny and evolution
- Related Primary Literature
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A perennial woody plant growing to a considerable height at maturity and having an erect stem or trunk and a well-defined crown or leaf canopy. Trees (Fig. 1) constitute some of the most important plant forms on Earth and are the foundational species of forests. The diversity of trees is broad, and the appearance and size of trees can vary, although most trees reach heights of at least 6 m (20 ft). However, no sharp definitional lines can be drawn between trees, shrubs, and lianas (woody vines). For example, the strangler fig (Ficus aurea) is a climbing liana that may develop into a self-supporting tree if the host around which it twines is removed. Many large trees, such as paper birch (Betula papyrifera) or Alaska cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis), become prostrate shrubs at the northern limits of their range in the boreal region or at their altitudinal limits near timberline. The term dendrology refers to the scientific division of forestry concerned with taxonomy of trees and other woody plants. See also: Dendrology; Forest; Forest ecosystem; Forestry; Tree growth; Tree physiology
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