We don’t know what a tree is (and this video won’t tell you)

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It turns out that defining what is and isn’t a “tree” is way harder than it seems.

To learn more about this topic, start your googling with these keywords:
Wood: A bunch of cellulose fibers intertwined with lignin usually found in the trunk of a tree.
Trunk: A wooden stem that thickens over time.
Bonsai: An ornamental tree or shrub that is artificially prevented from reaching its normal size.
Shrub: A woody plant that is smaller than a tree.
Gymnosperm: A group of plants, including conifers, that have naked seeds.
Angiosperm: A group of plants, including lots of other “trees” that have enclosed seeds.
Monocots: A group of flowering plants – mostly angiosperms – with a single embryonic leaf that includes palm trees.
Dicots: A group of flowering plants – mostly angiosperms – with two embryonic leaves that includes oak trees.

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David Goldenberg | Script Writer, Narrator, and Director
Adam Thompson | Illustration, Video Editing, and Animation
Nathaniel Schroeder | Music

MinuteEarth is produced by Neptune Studios LLC

Sarah Berman • Arcadi Garcia i Rius
David Goldenberg • Julián Gustavo Gómez
Melissa Hayes • Alex Reich • Henry Reich • Peter Reich
Ever Salazar • Leonardo Souza • Kate Yoshida

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Georg Miehe, Sabine Miehe, Jonas Vogel, Sonam Co, Duo La. (2007) “Highest Treeline in the Northern Hemisphere Found in Southern Tibet,” Mountain Research and Development, 27(2), 169-173. Retrieved from:

Ellenberg, H., Mueller-Dombois, D. (1965). A key to Raunkiaer plant life forms with revised subdivisions. Retrieved from:

Alcott, D. (2019). Are palm trees really trees? That’s Life Science. Retrieved from:

David B. Neale, Pedro J. Martínez-García, Amanda R. De La Torre, Sara Montanari, Xiao-Xin Wei. (2017). “Novel Insights into Tree Biology and Genome Evolution as Revealed Through Genomics.” Annual Review of Plant Biology 68:1, 457-483. Retrieved from:

Ehrenberg, Rachel. (2018). “What Makes A Tree A Tree?” Knowable Magazine. Retrieved from:,cells%20typical%20of%20most%20trees

Christophe Plomion, Grégoire Leprovost, Alexia Stokes. (2001). “Wood Formation in Trees”. Plant Physiology, Volume 127, 4: 1513–1523. Retrieved from:

Ray, Georgia (2021). “There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)”. Eukaryote Writes Blog. Retrieved from:

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