The origin of trees and their names

The origin of trees:

Before trees (woody organisms, capable of producing a ramified trunk), 450 million years ago, there were seaweeds, foams, ferns, and all "cryptogamic" plants, without flowers, without ovules, without seeds. These primary practices of reproduction limited expansion (the species reproduced on place) and the permanence (the sprout did not have enough reserves to survive in dormancy). Trees appeared on earth at the end of the devonian (360 million years) and more widely in carboniferous era (which derives its name of the capacity of trees to fabricate a carbon material), 250 million years ago. They result from a key evolution, since they reproduce with flowers and seeds. The seed, transported by the wind or the birds, extends the era of settlement. The pollen resists to attacks, to such an extent that the electronic microscopy is able to identify very ancient pollens.

Species coexisted on continents which were not separated yet. The continental drift isolated the species which evolved in paralell at the same time, with clear similarities for example between the North American species and the Asians (for example the Occident and East plane trees). Europe was isolated.

When the north hemisphere was covered with ice in the Pliocene, until 10.000 years ago, the Asian and American species had the possibility of growing always more in the south, on new territories available. The European trees have stumbled on the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees, and, most species are extinguished. Only species that survived managed to win the Asia Minor. This explains why the European endemic species are less numerous than American or Asian species. We find fossils of sweetgum, magnolia and redwood, which reflect the wealth lost in the European flora. The plane disappeared from Europe, and it is the plane from West and East, which will return first in the gardens, then through a hybrid species, which spread rapidly in our cities.

The introduction of trees, first utilitarian (as the fig, the walnut or the cherry tree), starts with Roman conquests (the Romans bring back the cherry tree of Pont-Euxin, the apple tree and the walnut of Greece where they had been established). It continues with Crusades (the Crusaders bring, brought back, along with holy relics, peach and orange trees, the fruits of whicch were known and very expensive). The establishment of exotic trees accelerates with great maritime expeditions from the XVIIth century, not only for their utilitarian aspect (tree of heaven introduced for breeding silkworms) but also for their decorative aspect (Occident plane tree).

The French names come either from names Greco-Roman for trees known and introduced by Greco-Romen (ex: cherry tree, laburnum), or of more ancient words still, of Indo-European origin, for the indigenous trees (ex: alder, hawthorn and elm which derive from "Al"), or Arab words (apricot tree, orange tree, japanese pagodatree) or of their local name for imported trees (araucaria, aralia, jacaranda), or still a name constructed pseudo-scientifically (ex: cladrastis, Sweetgum, wingnut) or by analogy (ex: bald cypress, with nothing of a cypress!) let be finally of the name of the discoverer or of a famous botanist (Albizia or Silk Tree, Parrotia, Magnolia). To distinguish the species of a genus, we associate a qualifier, just as the name associated with the name, where the oak "sessile, " oak "hair", etc.. qualifier that specifies a feature of the tree (the sessile oak has a tassel sessile, ie without peduncle, the Turkey oak acorn has a thick hairy). Other colour qualifiers (white, black, red) or in form (verrucate) describe a particular aspect of leaves, fruits or of trunk. Finally qualifiers "fastigiate", "whining ", "gilt" often indicate varieties or hybrids among which the form (fastigiate, weeping) or the colour of the (gold) foliage is specific (and searched for the decoration of a garden). List of the names of 530 species.

The latin names or Latinized (with sometimes Greek origins) were given to specify species in an universal language, beyond the vernacular names. Principle was established by Carl von Linné and published in 1753: he resembles systems "name of family-forename", where "surname" would be here the name of the genus in Latin, with the first letter in uppercase letter (example: Betula, for the genus of Birches), followed by a distinctive written with a lower case (ex : verrucosa, for verrucate), followed by the initial of the botanist who described the genus the first. The genus refers to the classification in families, itself established according to criteria on flowers.

It happens that two botanists describe the same species, without knowing it, and both names were kept. Example : Betula verrucosa Ehrh = Betula pendula Roth (Common Birch). Eventually a second botanist has corrected the description. In this case, the first is placed in brackets. Example : Alnus glutinosa (L) Gaern. For the trees unknown to the Latin, and they are numerous, names were formed to look Latin, as "Camellia", "Grevillea" or "Magnolia", diverted from proper names (Georg Josef Kamel, a Jesuit missionary in China, Mr Greville and Mr Magnol, all three botanists).
List of the Latin names of 530 species.

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 Trees coming from :
 Middle East, North Africa   
 Caucasus, Siberia
 North America
 South america, Oceania, Africa       

  Rubric Knowledge

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