We have mentioned before that many human inventions are actually adaptations of things we see in nature. That applies to products from Velcro to high-strength materials to airplanes. However, there are times when we can’t improve on the natural product, so we use it as God created it. An example of that is wood. It’s a natural multipurpose building material. Wood is strong, durable, flexible, weather-resistant, lightweight, and non-toxic. Lumber from trees is the most common building material for homes and other housing structures.
How could there be such a well-designed and valuable natural multipurpose building material? Wood is produced in a living plant. Under the protective bark of a tree lies the cambium layer. It is the innermost layer of the bark where growth takes place. Each year, during the warm months, the cambium produces living cells, which become the new sheath expanding the trunk of the tree. The layers from previous years remain as the wooden skeleton giving strength to the tree. If you cut it down, you can count those layers as visible rings revealing the age of the tree.
The tree’s roots take in water with vital nutrients from the ground. Within the woody trunk, there are microscopic conduits called xylem carrying that water up to the leaves. Just outside of the cambium, another layer of micro-ducts called phloem moves sugar-water that the leaves produce using the amazingly complex system of photosynthesis. The phloem supplies nourishment that the cambium requires to build the new sheath of wood. When the growing season ends, the phloem carries the remaining nourishment to the roots for winter storage until next spring.
Trees often lose branches from wind, ice storms, other natural means, or by human intervention. When that happens, it can throw the tree off balance. The cambium steps in to build a thicker sheath on the side where the limb was lost, reinforcing the tree to bear the uneven load. When examining the rings of a felled tree, a ring that is thicker on one side indicates a fallen branch. The tree automatically takes care of the area of the lost limb by covering it with new annual sheaths.
Take a moment to look at the wood in your house. That natural multipurpose building material in the window and door trim, the floor, and your furniture was once alive. It was growing and transporting sap while the leaves converted sunlight and water into sugar-water to nourish the tree, and the cambium created new growth. The lines in that wood tell the story of days and years of rainfall, sunshine, wind, and changing temperatures in a forest somewhere in the world. The wood in your house is not there by accident, and we don’t believe the tree was a natural accident, but the work of a creative Engineer.
— Roland Earnst © 2019