A Serious Toy for Tree Nerds

Global Tree Search is an online tool recently created by Botanic Gardens Conservation International with several partners, including Chicago’s own Morton Arboretum. It’s a sort of worldwide inventory of tree species and their original distribution. Here’s a link.

weird barrel trees

Before Global Tree Search was compiled, no one was sure just how many tree species there were. Now we know: 60,065.

Global Tree Search let’s you search tree species by country, and also countries by tree species. What country has the most native trees? Brazil, with 8,715. But how many trees are native to, say, Iceland? (Answer: just 6 – poor Iceland!)

Texas Live Oak

On the other hand, let’s say you want to know the native range of the Olive tree (Olea europaea). You will find that the Olive’s range extends beyond the Mediterranean region as far north as Ukraine and all the way down the coast of East Africa to the tip of that continent. Burr Oaks (Quercus macrocarpa), however, are native only to the US and Canada.

Isn’t this fascinating? Of course it is. (If you don’t think it’s fascinating, then you are no tree nerd. Be gone!)

Silver Maple

However, enabling tree nerds to dig for tree trivia is not the raison d’être of Global Tree Search. It’s serious purpose is to serve as a baseline on the conservation status of tree species around the world. This is important since at least 17% of tree species face the threat of extinction. There are 300 species with 50 or fewer individual trees still living in the wild.

As a website, Global Tree Search is pretty basic and utilitarian. However, it could play an important role in preserving endangered species of the trees that we love.

27 Comments on “A Serious Toy for Tree Nerds

  1. Fascinating Jason – even for someone who’s not a tree nerd. I am passing the link to my husband! Also interesting to see the olive goes as far north as the Ukraine. Thanks for the info.

  2. What a great site – of course I looked up Canada and the number was 240. I looked up a few (I guess I’m not a tree nerd as most of the Latin names sent me Googling) and was surprised by what I found in a couple of cases – who would have thought that the Kentucky coffeetree would be native to southern Ontario!

  3. Jason, I recently read an article stating that problems we are having with many spruce trees in Michigan is because the soil here is wrong and they are not native to the area and can’t adapt. And I know this is an issue with lots of plants, not just trees. I’ll have to spend some time with this site after the challenge is over.

    @msdeniseh553
    Denise at My Life in Retirement Euromast Tower, Rotterdam

  4. This is great, thanks so much. I’m not as much a tree nerd as I’d like to be but maybe this will help push me over the edge.

  5. I wasn’t aware of this information. I am definitely a tree nerd. I love trees. Thanks for letting us know about this.

  6. What a fascinating site! Handy for identifying trees when travelling too. I’m surprised Iceland has six tree, I didn’t see any when visiting a few years ago. Thanks for the link, I shall lose hours there now.xxx

  7. Thank you for the link, Jason! People are growing olive trees in parts of Oregon. Some species do reasonably well in this climate.

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