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  1.  Is Michigan running out of trees or forest?

No.  Forest area is increasing slightly.  Forest volume is growing substantially.  Michigan has one of the most lightly harvested forests in the United States.  Nevertheless, there may be areas within the state that are experiencing forest loss.  This is typically due to urban sprawl and urban splatter (construction of second homes, resorts, golf courses, etc.).

  2.  Do we need trees for oxygen?

No.  Compared to the oxygen reserves in the atmosphere and green plant oxygen generators, trees are not major producers.  Ocean plants produce far more oxygen than trees, which makes some sense considering the ocean covers about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface..  Remember that the purpose of photosynthesis is not to produce oxygen, but to produce sugars.

  3.  How long do trees live?

Most trees don't survive their first year.  However, trees can live as long as 4,000 years, but this is very rare.  In Michigan, tree species longevity ranges from about 80 years to about 1,200 years (potentially).  Northern white cedar is the longest living tree species in Michigan.

  4.  How much wood does it take to build a house?

Obviously, the answer depends on the house.  However, a 2000 square foot house will use about 13,000 board feet of framing lumber and about 6200 square feet of sheathing (usually oriented strand board - OSB).  

  5.  Who is the largest forest owner in Michigan.

The State of Michigan is the largest landowner, holding about 4.1 million acres of state forest, state parks, and other lands.  Plum Creek owns approximately 630,000 acres of forest land, making them the largest private forest owner in Michigan.

  6.  How many species of wildlife live in Michigan?

The answer depends upon a lot of things, such as what you consider as wildlife and how you define "live".  However, there are about 575 species of vertebrates that have been recorded in Michigan (many are migrants).  Nobody knows how many species of animals there are if you count all the other forms of wildlife.

  7.  How many species of trees grow in Michigan?

Another difficult question to answer.  When does a shrub become a tree?  Do you count non-native species that people plant in their yards?  Well, if you just count those tree species in the statewide forest inventories conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, then there are about 85 species, more or less. 

  8.  What is the biggest tree in Michigan?

"Big" can mean height, diameter, or crown spread.  The biggest tree using a formula that incorporates all three factors is a black willow (Salix nigra) near Traverse City.  The tallest tree is a 179 foot red maple (Acer rubrum in St. Clair County), as the 201 foot white pine (Pinus strobus) is reported to have died.  A white oak (Quercus alba) near Allegan has the widest reported crown spread at 161 feet.  The tree with the largest diameter is the same black willow by Traverse City.

  9.  What is the most common tree in Michigan?

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum).  "Common" can be defined in terms of either numerical count or by wood volume.  In either case, sugar maple is the king, by an increasing margin.

10.  What is Michigan's state tree? 

Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is the state tree.  However, the apple blossom (Malus spp.) is the state flower.

11.  What makes leaves drop in the fall?

Wind and gravity!  Actually, this is true.  However, a layer of weak cells forms in the leaf stem due to changes in photoperiod.  The leaf will eventually break from the twig at this "abscission layer". 

12.  How many rings does a tree grow each year?

Typically we might think the answer is "one" but actually the answer is "two".  Different rings are grown in the spring and summer.  If you think about it, if there were only one ring, how could we tell where one year's growth ended and the next began?  This is the case in some tropical trees . . . and they cannot be aged by counting rings.

13.  What is wood made of?

Cellulose makes up most of the wood volume.  Cellulose is a complex sugar, so you could say the wood is mostly sugar!

14.  How many trees are planted in Michigan each year?

About 30 million, three trees for every person in Michigan.  However, many millions more are naturally regenerated through forest management.

15.  Do bears hibernate?

That depends upon how you define "hibernation", and some experts disagree with each other.  In a strict sense, bears are not true hibernators.

16.  Is fire always bad?

No.  Uncontrolled wildfire generally results in mostly negative results, as well as some positive ones.  Prescribed fire provides mostly positive results.  Fire is a natural part of many of our forest ecosystems.  If we cannot allow fire in certain forest types, then we must find alternative management methods (usually controversial also) to imitate the effects of fire

 17.  Has pollution killed a lot trees?

No.  This is often cited as a forest health issue by elementary school students.  While air pollutants do have negative affects on trees, sometimes killing them, death by pollution is a small factor in Michigan.  This is more common in urban areas and along busy highways.  Automobile exhaust and road salts are the main pollutants that impact trees.  Vandalism, improper planting, lawn-mowing, and soil deficiencies contribute more to urban tree mortality than pollution.

18.  How much of Michigan is covered with forest?

A little over half (53%).  However, most of that forest is up north.  The Upper Peninsula is about 83% forested, heavier in the west than in the east.  The southern Lower Peninsula is covered by less than 20% forest and is dominated by farms and cities.



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MSUElogo.tif (16254 bytes) This website was developed and created by Michigan State University Extension for the teachers of the State of Michigan.  The website is maintained by the Delta-Schoolcraft Independent School District in support of the Michigan Forests Forever CD-ROM from the Michigan Forest Resource Alliance.

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Please provide comments to Bill Cook: or 786-1575