This week is National Tree Week, and although November seems a strange month to celebrate trees as most as them appear to be graceful leafless skeletons, it is in fact a good time of the year to plant many a tree, now that they’re dormant.

1. Hug a hairy tree

We have some hairy animals at the zoo with thick fur to keep them warm in cold conditions, like our beautiful red panda. Who would have thought that trees sometimes use the same trick to stay warm?

This hardy evergreen plant is known variously as the Chinese windmill palm (from its leaves), the Chusan or Fortune palm.

Fortune palms originate in the wilds of central China, from southern Japan to northern Burma and northern India, growing at altitudes of 100 to 2,400 m. It has been grown and prized in China and Japan for thousands of years for its hairy covering, a coarse but very strong leaf sheath fibre used for making rope, sacks, and other coarse cloth where great strength is important.

It is now a popular ornamental palm around the world, especially in many cooler, colder climates like the UK.

2. A fierce tree with sharp teeth?

The toothed lancewood is a small tree native to New Zealand. It is also known as a fierce lancewood due to its fierce looking saw tooth shaped leaves. These ‘saw blades’ are known as juvenile leaves, as once this slow growing tree matures, its leaves become smoother. In adulthood the tree will take a more typical tree shape and will grow up to 6 metres tall.

Why so spiky you ask?

One theory why the toothed lancewood has different juvenile and adult shapes (known to scientists as ‘heteroblasty’) suggests that the tall stem and high up ‘fierce’ leaves evolved over time to prevent being eaten by giant moa birds. These birds reached about 3.6 metres (12 feet) high with neck outstretched. These giant flightless birds were hunted to extinction by the Maori about 600 years ago. Once trees grew above moa height, it is thought that they no longer needed the special defences of their ‘saw toothed’ juvenile leaves.

3. Jurassic bark?  tree ferns and Ginkgo trees – once eaten by dinosaurs

There are several tree species around Newquay Zoo that have been around on Earth long enough to have been food for plant-eating dinosaurs.

New Zealand tree ferns (Dicksonia Antarctica) are an ancient plant, an evergreen tree fern native to eastern Australia and Tasmania, but now widely seen at Newquay Zoo and in many UK gardens.

The Ginkgo tree is the only surviving species in the Ginkgophyta group, all the others are now extinct. It is also one of the few living things to have survived the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima in 1945.

The Ginkgo is often called a ‘living fossil’, like some of the animal species at Newquay Zoo. It could easily have been food for dinosaurs, as Ginkgo leaves are found as fossils dating back to the Early Jurassic period, about 270 million years ago.

It is a long-lived tree, with some specimens claimed to be more than 1000 to 2,500 years old. Ours at Newquay Zoo is a youngster, only planted about ten to fifteen years ago.

4. Tree houses old and young

It was Newquay Zoo’s 50th Birthday this year, having opened on May 26th 1969.

One of the important and growing assets that we have at Newquay Zoo are our trees, most of which have been planted in the last 50 years since the zoo opened.

As you can see from this photo taken from 1969 a small group of sapling trees were planted on the grass where the path splits in two along Lake Road and up past the deer paddock.

These sapling trees are now mature trees, large enough to be home to our pair of red panda. At this time of the year, you can more easily see our red pandas up a tree, now that their trees are without leaves. Look up and you may see them on your next visit!

5. Special trees

Trees can sometimes be quite special to individuals and families. There are a small number of trees around the zoo planted in the early 2000s by our members in memory of loved ones.

We planted a special tree this year in our Oriental Garden to mark our 50th Anniversary, which was on 26th May 2019. The tree was an Acer, which is a type of Japanese maple. This special Acer tree should grow steadily over the next fifty years towards our zoo centenary in 2069.

In this time, we must work out how best to protect both our overseas and local habitats and their animals from an uncertain century of climate change, deforestation and loss of species. A huge and busy task as this is, some time spent relaxing under those trees is never wasted and good for the soul!

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