How Trees Allocate Their Resources


Most people know that tress and plants perform photosynthesis. This is the process of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, water, and solar energy; then converting them to glucose (aka photosynthates).


These photosynthates are used in a specific manner that best suits the tree.


When one thinks of a really big old tree they might think of how tall it is or how wide it is. In actuality, height and girth are relatively low priorities for a tree.


Allocation of photosynthates:

1) Maintaining Respiration

2) Production of Leaves & Fine Root Hairs

3) Flower & Seed Production

4) Primary Growth

5) Adding Girth & Resistances




1)       Maintaining respiration is a trees number one priority.

Thus a tree will use up most of its daily photosynthates on breathing. Trees are made up of living cells: sapwood, leaves, and roots; and nonliving tissues: heartwood and bark.

2)       Production of leaves and fine root hairs would be the second thing a tree would use its photosynthates on. Leaves are the ones performing photosynthesis, thus producing photosynthates which the tree uses to grow.

New fine roots are also important because they bring in water and nutrients.


3)       The next allocation of photosynthates would be to flower and seed production. Reproducing is the life long goal of all living things. Thus, after necessities are out of the way, the tree can now plan for the future.

4)       The tree will now allocate its photosynthates to primary growth. Primary growth is terminal and lateral branching. This can only happen after a tree has ensured its survival. It will now compete from space above and below ground.


5)       If there are any photosynthates left over the tree will use them to add girth and defense mechanisms to aid in survival. Although society believes that girth is the most important characteristic for a tree (economically) it is actually the tree’s lowest priority for the allocation of photosynthates.


When trees grow there are many factors that are taken into consideration: light temperature, oxygen, precipitation, amount of nutrients, disturbance and so forth.


Photosynthesis is dependent on temperature. Ideal temperature ranges are between 45 ° F and 65 °F.

Many trees have tolerances. For instance pine species are shade intolerant, and thus must grow tall and fast win the race for the sun.  Many oak species can survive in the understory because they are shade tolerant.

Trees grow up and out. For instant if you hammer a nail in a tree at 4 ft and the tree grows 3 ft a year. In 5 years where will that nail be?  







Would the nail be at 19 ft ?

3 ft/yr x 5 yrs + the 4 original ft.

No! The nail would still be at 4 ft since the tree grows from the terminal bud up. Although, your nail might get covered up by added girth.



Ultimately trees allocate there resources in accordance to what they need, unfortunately, that’s not always what people want from their landscapes.



Author: Ashley Tyer



“Although I’ve had many… Gods knows I’ll have more…”














2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debbie Crawford
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 17:35:24

    I liked the last picture with Nemo. Was not expecting that. But, then again you have alwasys kept me on my toes. Seriously, you did a great job with your blog. Very informative.
    PS: Love the pictures with my grandaughter.


  2. Darren Butchy Cole
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 02:13:35

    cool stuf full of info.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: