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Image 1. Tree: Leaf-shedding variety
(Constructed in accordance with Materials Preservation Regulations — Re-use/Repurpose Schedule No. 7, Subsection B, item 3)
Image 2. Tree: Leaf-retaining variety
(Replica of ancient image created during the Era of Trees)
(Courtesy of SurfaceLands LifeForm Archive)
They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them.
Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi, 1970
Tree Display Didactic
Trees once roamed freely on the SurfaceLands in large herds called forests. The herds were often diverse with many different kinds of tree varying in the color and texture of their skin (called bark) and the color and shape of their hair (called leaves) as well as in size and behavior.
The largest race of trees was the Sequoia of northern California (see display for Ancient SurfaceLands Regions). Some Sequoia grew more than 75m tall and measured 30m or more around their base.
Some varieties of tree shed their leaves at the approach of Winter (a cold period that occurred each Year on many areas of the SurfaceLands). It was thought that this leaf drop might be a gesture of mourning associated with Sun worship, but nothing is known for certain about the religious beliefs of trees. The trees grew new leaves the following Spring (Spring was a time after Winter when the SurfaceLands warmed again. See displays for Ancient Earth Surface Weather and Seasons, and Historical Time Reckoning display).
Although it is known that trees communicated with one another to synchronize important activities — such as fertility festivals in which masses of trees released sperm (called pollen) into the air at the same time — very little is known of the actual mechanisms through which they shared information. Socially, however, we know that tree herds lived communally, collaborating to gather and share food, water and the sugars they manufactured. Their belief system appears to be based on the notion that each tree would live long and prosper only if all members of the herd, or forest were healthy.
It is believed that trees were home-loving creatures rather than adventurous, as tree herds tended to remain in one location for long periods of time. Each individual tree embedded its toes into the soil as it grew, and its underground feet (called roots) were specialized for extracting nutrients and water from the soil. Tree herds could move slowly across generations, however, by gradually populating adjacent areas or by entrusting their young (called seeds) to travelling animals that could carry the seeds for long distances to populate new areas.
The wisest trees were very ancient — hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old. These Grandmother Trees supported and guided the lives of their children and cousins in caring for one another. Trees also appear to have had mutually supportive relationships with the other creatures living around them. They allowed fungal organisms to penetrate their toe roots. These fungi, which formed a dense network in the soil, acted as a delivery service in the sharing of nutrients between trees and shared the minerals that they were able to harness from the soil; in return, the fungi received for a portion of the nutrients that they ferried between trees. This collaboration for mutual benefit was called a forest ecosystem.
Indigenous humans of the SurfaceLands also enjoyed positive relationships with the tree herds. They helped protect the herds from the most devastating effects of Wildfire (see display for SurfaceLands Disasters) by carefully burning off dried materials around the feet and ankles of the trees during the colder and wetter times (see display for Seasons on the SurfaceLands), so that there would not be enough fuel to create intense Wildfires. In return, the trees shared as gifts many parts of themselves with these humans who respectfully and gratefully used the trees' resin as glue for waterproofing boats and baskets, their sap as a healing drink, their nuts and berries for nourishment, their bark to make hats and capes, their wood to construct shelter and boats, twigs and branches for tool handles and digging sticks and toys, leaves and bark and berries to dye fabric and baskets, leaves to line food baskets, and moss growing on trees to line infants' diapers.
When another type of human, the colonial peoples of western Europe came to this continent, they saw monetary value in trees but, as they had done with other indigenous occupants of invaded lands, the colonial peoples did not understand well the concepts of mutual support in a social group —now known to be essential for the health of members as well as group survival. The colonial peoples had no interest in understanding or accommodating the needs and lifeways of trees, imposing their own ways of competition and conflict on all other life forms. (See Ancient Barbaric Social Practices displays on "Colonialism" and "Oppression of Indigenous Peoples", as well as the Historical Inequitable Economic Systems display on "Capitalism" for further details). Vast swaths of mature trees were cut en masse to clear land for farming or produce lumber for sale. The bark, branches, leaves and roots of cut trees were burned along with small, mishapen or otherwise unmarketable trees, and tree herd diversity destroyed by poisoning or cutting of less valued species. Tree children (seedlings) were captured and factory farmed in plantations, growing weaker with successive generations without their Grandmother Trees or herd diversity to support their health.
The colonial peoples "harvested" both wild and enslaved trees at a rapid pace, not realizing their key roles in maintaining the Earth's SurfaceLands at a habitable temperature. Reduced cooling from trees contributed to the loss of snow cover. (Snow is a form of frozen water that fell on the SurfaceLands from the Sky during the season called Winter). This contributed to a positive feedback loop, accelerating the heating of the SurfaceLands to the point that no trees could survive. This was the period during which we migrated to our UnderWorld Home.