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The Life of the Forest

The forest is a complex community where trees, other plants and animals live in delicate balance. As stewards of the earth’s trees, it’s helpful for us to know about the growth processes of trees, their role in the forest world, and how we can improve their quality.

The Living Forest

See what tree rings tell us about the life of a tree.

A Seed Takes Root

Pictorial timeline shows how a pinecone sheds a seed and becomes a tree.

Anatomy of a Tree

See a cross-section of the inside of a tree trunk.

Trees are a renewable natural resource that can continue to provide beauty and useful products for generations to come. So how does a tree build a trunk that can live for centuries and hold the weight of many tons?

All of a tree trunk’s growing is done in a thin layer of living cells the cambium that surrounds the wood. This layer creates new wood on one side of itself, and new bark on the other. This way, in effect, it moves outward, pushing the bark before it, leaving wood behind. Over the years the trunk of the tree becomes bigger and thicker as this process repeats itself each growing season.

You’ll see how a tree ring can tell you if the tree has lived through fires, lack of rain or too much rain, and much more.

The marvelous chemistry of life tells this layer just how many wood cells will be needed to support the leafy crown, and how much bark to build in order to protect the wood beneath it. This process, infinitely repeated, has given the world its forests. See our picture of the inside of a tree trunk to discover the functions of each layer of a tree’s trunk.

When you visit “The Living Forest” page, you’ll see how the effects of the environment actually make a difference in the way the rings of a tree appear. You’ll see how a tree ring can tell you if the tree has lived through fires, lack of rain or too much rain, and much more.

Graphics courtesy of International Paper

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