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Tree Basics

Trees provide us with a wide range of benefits.  We generally think first of building materials such as lumber.



However, trees are the source of many other products including paper (yes, even toilet paper!), fuel, medicines, food and even camera film.  In fact, there are over 5,000 products manufactured from trees. We use these goods from the wood every day. Click here to take a "goods from the woods quiz". All parts of a tree are used to make these products. The fruits and nuts of many trees are eaten by people and wildlife. Apples, walnuts, acorns, and nutmeg are a few of these products. The bark of trees is used to produce cinnamon, shoe polish, and even aspirin. The stumps of pine trees are used in pine cleaners and in the flavoring of orange sodas. The foliage (or leaves) of trees are used to make waxes and crayons. Bay leaves are used in cooking. The sap of trees is used to make maple syrup. Gums, which are found in the tree sap, are used in hairspray, paints, soaps, cough syrups, and in ice cream. The trunk of a tree is used to make lumber, furniture, and other large wood products. The branches of the tree are used to make paper products. There are thousands of paper products that we use every day. These products include: wrapping paper, newspapers, books, posters, movie tickets, dollar bills, photographs, and many more.

Trees also provide homes to wildlife, protect our clean water, recreation opportunities and beautify our homes.  In order to use trees wisely and maximize their benefits it is necessary to understand how they grow. Paper is one of the most common wood products. Imagine how different your day would be without paper! The first paper was made in China in the 2nd century A.D. Until 1798 paper was made one sheet at a time. Now some machines can make a 26 foot wide sheet of paper that is 40 miles long in only one hour.

Paper-making begins when trees are harvested and sent to a paper mill on log trucks. The bark of the trees is peeled off and the logs are pulverized into cereal-size pieces. The wood chips are then placed in “pulp cookers” with chemicals and steam. The hot mixture breaks down the wood chips into even smaller pieces. This combination of wood fibers and water is known as pulp. The pulp is cleaned, bleached, and/or dyed. The pulp is then sprayed onto large wire screens that allow the excess water to drain out of the mixture. The paper mat that is left is dried over steam-heated rollers. That’s the basic paper-making process; now click here for a recipe to make your own paper at home.


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