Tree of Trees

Arbourtrary Visualization


Throughout my life, I've spent hundreds of hours climbing all varieties of trees. There's nothing quite like the smooth feeling of acension, leaning to hang with the wind and the leaves and the sun. At Stanford, I had the amazing luck to be in a place with hundreds of types to climb. Every year, I gathered loquats, oranges, lemons and avocados from the campus and spent bright afternoons reading the works of great poets: Langston Hughes, Stephen Dunn, Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman, and Seamus Heaney among others.

Upon realizing how little I knew about the origin of trees or how modern species are related to each other, I decided to do a small project to learn more. I chose 10 of my favorite species of trees that have been important in my lifetime. These were the Quercus virginiana (Texas live oak), Delonix regia - (flamboyan), Salix babylonica - (willow), Roystonea borinquena - (palm tree), Eucalyptus globulus - (eucalyptus) Eriobotrya japonica - (loquat), Citrus limon - (lemon), Citrus orange - (orange), Populus deltoides - (cottonwood), and Sequoia sempervirens - (redwood).

These were all species that came from my experiences in Texas, Puerto Rico and California. I have climbed at least one tree of each type and in the visualization above, I have shown the tallest such tree that I've personally encountered and have noted its approximate height. The phylogenetic tree acts as a tree of trees and a stylized legend to help understand how closely (or not) these trees are related to each other genetically. The oldest and least related to the others is the Redwood tree (240 Million years old), while the two most closely related are the Lemon and Orange trees, two of the youngest trees (~20 Million years old). In the visualization, the varying shades of green indicate how long that type of tree has been on earth - darker green is older.

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