One season or other seasons, depending on variations

One fascinating group of trees found all over the world are known as deciduous trees. In this lesson, we will examine them more closely. We will discuss their characteristics and look at examples so you will be able to recognize them in nature.

Definition of Deciduous Trees

More than likely, you are not too far from a deciduous tree right now.

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Deciduous trees are trees that drop their leaves for part of the year. They are found in temperate and tropical climates all over the world. Deciduous trees have broad flat leaves that catch a lot of light and require a great amount of water.

In some cases, leaf loss coincides with winter – namely in temperate or polar climates when there is less sunlight for the process of photosynthesis.In other parts of the world, including tropical, subtropical, and arid regions, deciduous trees lose their leaves during the dry season or other seasons, depending on variations in rainfall. This allows the trees to enter a dormant period during the difficult times as a means of survival. The process of shedding unneeded parts, such as leaves, is known as abscission. Unlike deciduous trees, evergreen trees, such as pine and cedar trees, keep their needles year round.

Types and Examples of Deciduous Trees

Deciduous trees can be found in most regions of the planet.

Common examples of deciduous trees include oak, maple, and hickory trees. Oak trees are characteristic deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall and re-grow them in the spring. There are approximately 600 living species of oak trees. These hardwood trees have large, lobe-shaped leaves and produce a fruit in the form of a nut called an acorn. They grow in a variety of regions, ranging from temperate forests and rain forests to arid Mediterranean landscapes. As a strong hardwood tree, oaks have been crucial to the building industry for hundreds of years and have been propagated by tree farmers for this purpose.

Classic oak trees like this are found all over the United States.
Image of an oak tree

Have you ever noticed the brightly colored red, orange, and yellow leaves displayed in the fall by many trees? Most of these amazing colors can be attributed to maple trees preparing to shed their leaves. Each year these deciduous trees put on a brilliant show of color as they prepare to enter their dormant period. During this time, there is reduced light for the leaves of the tree to undergo photosynthesis. As a result, the trees begin to produce less green chlorophyll pigments. This reduction in green pigment allows the other pigments that are red, orange, or yellow and are normally masked by green to shine through.

Maple trees are found in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and North America. There are approximately 128 living species.

A maple tree as it prepares to shed its leaves.

Photo of a maple tree

There are approximately 19 species of hickory trees found in China, India, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. They are characterized by large compound leaves and the fruit they produce in the form of a large nut.

As classic deciduous trees, they shed their leaves in the late fall and grow them again in the spring when conditions are more favorable.

This image shows the classic leaves and nuts found on hickory trees.
Image of hickory nuts and leaves.

Lesson Summary

Deciduous trees are easy to recognize.

They are the ones that drop their leaves each year as a means to conserve energy. There are a great variety of deciduous trees found all over the world. Some of them provide brilliant scenery in the fall of the year, while others are known for the nuts they produce and for the quality of their hardwood. Three examples of deciduous trees include oak, maple, and hickory trees.

Learning Outcomes

Once you are finished with this lesson, you should be able to:

  • State the characteristics of deciduous trees
  • Name some common deciduous trees
  • List some countries where deciduous trees can be found
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