I love Christmas, everything about it just screams happy. So I’m going to make the most of it. The next few days will be Christmas-themed, so apologies in advance if you get a minor overload. Even my VLC icon is so excited, he’s wearing a Christmas hat.
First, a fact about fir trees. It’s not a real Christmas without the tree…
The genes of that lavishly decorated Douglas fir are old. Very old: New research has revealed that the genome of conifers-which includes spruces, pines, and firs-has hardly changed since dinosaurs walked the Earth.
Thanks to that stability, there are far fewer species of conifers than there are of other plants. Conifers and flowering plants, or angiosperms, diverged from a common ancestor around 300 million years ago; today, there are more than 400,000 species of angiosperms-which must evolve to survive in various environments-but only 600 species of conifers. (There are still small-scale genetic mutations, but overall, the structure of the genome has been pretty stable.)
The key to the conifer’s success is in its plumbing. The trees carry water up their trunks with tiny, single-celled parallel pipes called tracheids. Conifers have 10 times as many of these pipes as flowering plants, which means they’re not at a disadvantage in the competition for water. And that brings us back to the tree in your living room: Make sure it’s well watered, so it doesn’t drop its needles before you’re done celebrating.
via Mental Floss