Bark allows trees to defy gravity

De-barking, the act of removing bark from a living tree, is a common practice in Seychelles to kill invasive or otherwise unwanted trees. We were taught at school that bark’s function is purely to protect the plant from outside threats, much as skin does. So de-barking makes sense. However, I’ve watched de-barked Albizia, a highly invasive and fast growing tree introduced to Seychelles, keep on living and growing for a short while and then suddenly bending or losing branches and literally start to fall apart.

This has now been explained. When researchers recently studied the interior structure of both stem and bark, they found that the fibres in the bark were organised in a sort of trellis structure. As the tree grows, the circumference of the bark increases; this causes the trellis to generate forces along the stem to keep it growing upright. Bark therefore plays an important role in allowing trees to defy gravity by growing upwards

It’s amazing there are still discoveries to be made about something as ubiquitous as bark!

Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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