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Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate.
They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues.
The shoots typically bear leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development. Flowers and fruit may be present, but some trees, such as conifers, instead have pollen cones and seed cones.
Palms, bananas, and bamboos also produce seeds, but tree ferns, produce spores instead.
For most trees it is surrounded by a layer of bark which serves as a protective barrier.
Because of their longevity and usefulness, trees have always been revered, with sacred groves in various cultures, and they play a role in many of the world's mythologies.
Diagram of secondary growth in a eudicot or coniferous tree showing idealised vertical and horizontal sections.
They differ from shrubs, which have a similar growth form, by usually growing larger and having a single main stem; made more confusing by the fact that trees may be reduced in size under harsher environmental conditions such as on mountains and subarctic areas.
The tree form has evolved separately in unrelated classes of plants in response to similar environmental challenges, making it a classic example of parallel evolution.
It is estimated that there are just over 3 trillion mature trees in the world.