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The sex life of trees
Ecology North volunteers educate Yellowknifers on how perennials reproduce

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 21, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - "It was satisfying," said Daniel MacIsaac, one of the participants, after the "sex life of trees" information session and nature walk on McMahon Frame Lake Trail on Monday.

 NNSL photo/graphic

Andrew Robinson coined the phrase "treesome" as he and his girlfriend Rae Braden hug a birch tree after the Sex Life of Trees Information Session put on by Ecology North volunteers on April 18 at the City of Yellowknife grounds. They are holding the pamphlet "Weird and Wacky Facts of Trees," published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. - Heather Lange/NNSL photo

The talk and walk was put on by Ecology North volunteers Stephanie Yuill and Claudia Haas. There were ten participants who showed up for the talk to learn more about the sex lives of trees.

Yuill talked about the white and black spruce. She said black spruce trees were the poor self-pruners of the tree family.

"You have to feel sorry for him," said Yuill, pitying the tree's shaggy appearance as it doesn't shed excess foliage.

"He is not going to get any dates, because he is a poor self-pruner."

The white and black spruce trees have both male and female parts. The male and female cones open at different times so the tree doesn't self-pollinate. Just like in the human world, incest is not a natural phenomenon. The black spruce also has another quality working against its physical appearance it's cones are a bit chubbier than the white spruce cones.

You can always tell the difference between male and female cones on a tree, as the female cones are always bigger. Male cones hang out on the end of the trees branches and shrivel up during the winter.

"We like to call it the winter shrivel factor," laughs Yuill.

There are 90 to 100 different types of willow trees in Canada and 40 types in the NWT. Worldwide there are 400 species of willow, and even specialists have a hard time differentiating one type from another.

Have you ever noticed that when you cut a willow branch, yellow pollen is released? That is because it knows it is dieing and in desperation, tries to pollinate its environment to propagate the species.

The odds that a seed will grow into a mature tree in a natural forest are one in a million so, as the fourth month of the International Year of Forests draws near, why not give a one-in-a-million tree a hug?

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