Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!
Cutin (biochemistry noun) [KYOO-tin]: A Waxy, water-repellent substance occurring in the cuticle of plants and consisting of highly polymerized esters of fatty acids.
Even in the season of Fall, not all of the green is gone. Standing tall, are the incredible evergreen trees that live in the High Park forests. The deep green colours that we notice are that of the tree’s needles and each individual needle is covered in the protective and waxy cutin.
A needle from an evergreen tree can really be thought of as a leaf that is just coiled up extra tight; it will also perform photosynthesis, and requires water to survive. Yes, a smaller “leaf” size does mean that the needles do not perform as much photosynthesis as their deciduous counterparts, however a needle’s smaller water demands and the protective cutin, prevents any water from freezing and killing the needle. This allows for photosynthesis to continue to occur throughout the entire cold season, providing the tree with continuous energy.
Its important to note that although these evergreen trees have many qualities that support their life during the colder months of the year, this does not mean that their needles don’t fall. Rather, when they turn brown and fall, it is mostly because the needles have aged. When this happens, they will simply be replaced by new, healthy needles.
Keep an eye out for evergreen trees and their cutin coated needles on your next visit to High Park!