Trees support life in so many ways

Spinning tales about products from trees as forests cover around 30 percent of the planet’s land surface. 

 Fortunately, trees are renewable resources. They provide essentials such as releasing oxygen, preventing erosion and maintaining habitats for animals.

Furthermore, we also rely on trees for a variety of products.  Wholesome fruits are harvested from trees. Who can resist Gala apples or Florida oranges? And pecans are picked from trees for those delectable holiday pies. 

Another gift from trees is sugar. Sap is tapped and boiled down to desired consistency, from syrup to sugar. Trees, such as the sugar maple (high in productivity), black maple or red maple are common producers. 

Other trees, such as birch and walnut, also supply similar syrup. Vermont is our country’s top maple syrup producer, and the Canadian province of Quebec claims 70 percent of the global output. 

In addition, trees provide wood for esteemed products. For example, the bodies of string musical instruments, such as violins, are made from wood. The treasured Stradivarius violins were handcrafted from spruce, maple and willow during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, they are worth millions of dollars. 

Woods of quality also are handcrafted by Steinway for outstanding pianos. This American company was established in 1853. It uses Sitka spruce for its piano soundboards. In 1938, it presented an exclusive Steinway, veneered in Honduran mahogany, to the White House. Certainly, this brand has been acclaimed by many artists, from Rachmaninoff, a virtuoso pianist, to Irving Berlin, a most prolific American songwriter who died in 1989 at 101 years of age.

 Berlin featured the Steinway in his song "I Love a Piano."

Unique wooden products were convenient in the past. Cradles of birch bark were utilized by some Native Americans. Covered wagons were constructed of maple, hickory and oak. The Pullman sleeper car displayed a luxurious black walnut interior — it was part of Lincoln’s funeral train. Wooden nickels served as emergency currency in Blaine, Washington during the Great Depression. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair offered wooden nickels as souvenirs; such keepsakes still are popular.   

Today, some wooden items are substituted or face competition.  For example, wine corks made from the bark of cork oak are sometimes replaced by synthetic corks or aluminum screw caps.  Wooden building studs compete with metal. Precast concrete railroad ties, instead of wood, are in demand for high-speed passenger railroads.  

Nevertheless, many household products are made from wood components: rayon bath towels, nail polish, makeup, toothpaste, disinfecting wipes or medications. To ensure trees continue to enhance our quality of life with natural or innovative products, scientists are dedicated to maintaining forests through proper management. 

How can Floridians help?  Go paperless, plant a tree or stay on designated hiking trails.