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Word of the Week: Denudate

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Denudate [dih-NOO-deyt ](verb): to make bare; strip; denude.

This fun word comes from the latin word “denudatus” which means “naked” or “ bare.”

With the days getting colder, the deciduous trees in High Park take on their denudate winter appearance. Deciduous trees have the amazing ability to sense the weather change and prepare themselves accordingly.

As the fall days get shorter and the nights get colder, that’s when trees know to go dormant, which is very similar to an animal’s hibernation.

They start this process of dormancy by slowing down their growth and getting rid of their leaves. All throughout the year, keeping beautiful healthy leaves requires a lot of resources, especially water from the tree’s roots. Since many of the tree’s necessary resources are limited in the winter, dropping their leaves is a key way of preparing for the days ahead and saving as much water as possible.

Next, the trees ensure that their cells are protected from freezing temperatures. All throughout the year, trees are transferring water into their cells. As it cools down, trees move that water from inside the cell to the tiny spaces on the outside in between the cells. In doing this, the tree is preventing its important cells from freezing up.

As soon as it’s cold enough, the water outside the cells freezes, which creates a little pocket of heat that protects the cells. At the same time, sugars, proteins, fats and more of those deciduous tree essentials build up inside the cells, which also protects the tree from the cold.

It’s truly amazing how a tree that looks like it’s “sleeping ” actually has so much work happening behind the scenes. Appearances can be very misleading!

On your next visit to High Park, keep an eye out for the deciduous trees in their denudate winter look!