Bark is the outermost covering of a tree’s trunk and branches, like a protective skin. Tree bark conserves water and also serves to protect the tree’s essential living systems from environmental and situational dangers. These include temperature extremes, storms, attacks by animals, diseases, and insects. Some trees even have developed extra thick bark which can protect them from the effects of brush fires. Bark also helps trees distribute water and nutrients, and they cannot live without it.
The Inner Bark Transports
A tree’s inner layer of bark is called the phloem and transports sugars made during photosynthesis in the leaves, down to the rest of the tree’s parts. The conductive cells of the phloem differ from tree to tree.
The Cambium Layer
The phloem on the inside of the bark is separated from the outer living layer of the heartwood, or xylem, by a layer known as the cambium. The xylem transports dissolved nutrients and water from the roots of the tree to the leaves, and creates a new layer of heartwood every year. This layer produces new phloem and xylem cells to replace the ones that die.
The Outer Bark Protection
This outer bark, or epidermis, protects all of the inner layers of tree bark from environmental damages. The outer tree bark is continuously renewed from within, as when living phloem cells wear out they become a part of the dead outer bark. As trees grow, the girth of this trunk expands, which causes the distinctive cracks visible in most tree species.
The Unappetizing Layer
The outer bark is indigestible and not tasty, which means that this part of tree bark has evolved to discourage insects and animals from eating it. Some critters have, however, come to realize that the inner tree bark is sweet and nutritious, and have found ways to get through the outer bark.
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