Last time on Out of The Woods, we talked about the difference of Hardwood vs Softwood. In it, we briefly mentioned the fascinating evolution of trees and how it deserved its own post.
[When I first tried to write this post, I fell into a wikipedia black hole, emerging with all my tree-related books spread open on my desk, covered with coffee stains and banana peels. So here’s another stab, with just the cool facts. Let’s face it, we really just want the cool facts version to impress our friends with, amirite?]
In the last post, we learned that softwoods are gymnosperms and hardwoods are angiosperms.
During a fact-checking session, one of the Tree Nerd Friends mentions, just casually as you please:
“Conifers are gymnosperm, a much older group of plants (and therefore terribly awesome).* They are so old that flowers had not evolved yet.*”
“Gymnosperm” basically translates as “naked seed”, whereas angiosperm (aka Flowering Plant) means “ a plant that produces seeds within an enclosure.
Naked Seed makes a much better band name.
Not only that, Gymnosperms are over 300 million years old. Fancypants angiosperms didn’t evolve from gymnosperms until 100 million years later and the oldest flowering plants are merely 160 million years old in comparison.
When plants evolved, they did so in moist environments, and used the water for sexual reproduction (transporting spores and such). As they evolved to be more advanced, they got bigger, and evolved beyond moist environments, and needed a new way to reproduce. So gymnosperms used the wind beneath their...needles... to transport spores for fertilization.
After a time, plants developed savvier ways to attract pollinators (via flowers) as well as to protect their seeds (hence fruit). It was much more efficient to make use of small amounts of pollen, that insects could transport on the tree’s behalf, rather than hope that your pollen would meet a nice lady by floating across the water or blowing in the wind Thus the birth of the angiosperms!
So does this translate into differences in the wood that comes from gymnosperms vs angiosperms? Stay tuned!