Trees are divided basically into two groups. One group is coniferous, which grows cones instead of flowers. These usually have needles instead of leaves. The other type of tree is deciduous, which produces flowers and grows leaves. No matter the type of tree, the life cycle is about the same. Teaching kids the life cycle of trees can be fun for all.
All trees start from seeds. Many of these seeds take a long time to sprout. Some seeds can take up to a year before one notices growth, while some require cold storage before they are able to germinate. Some seeds, especially those of the lodgepole pine, do not germinate much until after a forest fire. The cones are coated in a resin protecting the seeds. This resin only melts away from the intense heat of a fire. If you want to plant tree seeds with your kids, plant them in buckets outside where they can get plenty of sun and water.
The environment in which a tree grows can affect it's overall health. For instance, the environment surrounding the seedling can make tree roots strong because of constant wind. Also, the direction a tree will grow also is determined when a tree is still a seedling. Take a hike with your kids and show them trees that grow along the bank of a river. Notice that some of these trees grow somewhat slanted. If you have a chance to visit the coast you and the kids may notice that some trees are very one-sided due to storms and lack of protection from buildings or other trees.
When a tree is mature it has three distinct parts, including the crown, trunk and root systems. The crown is the topmost portion of the tree that contains the branches and leaves. The fruit of the tree grows in the crown. These fruits hold the seeds that can later be planted to grow new trees. The fruit can consist of edible fruit, such as apples or pears.
The trunk is the part of the tree that supports the crown. Kids can tell the age of a tree by measuring around the trunk or by counting the rings of trees that have already been cut down. The rings tell the story of the growth of the tree. The wider rings are years when rain was plentiful, allowing the tree to absorb a lot of water.
The root system of the tree is the part that absorbs nutrients, sends them up the the trunk and deposits them at the leaves. To tell how big a tree's root system is underground, use the crown of the tree as a guide. The roots extend out at least as far as the branches.
Like all living things, trees will die. While they are alive, they offer homes to many animals and insects. Once dead, the trees offer nutrition and homes to different animals. When a tree falls in the forest it is left there to rot. The rotting returns many much needed nutrients back into the soil.