Why don’t trees suffocate during autumn for they carry out respiration through leaves?

A munch of apple might keep the doctor away. The full blooming flowers in the garden make the mornings beautiful. The green leafy vegetables that we eat make us healthy. The trees give shade and help protect nature. Indeed, plants have many good things to give, not just to humans but to the entire ecosystem balance.

And like humans, plants need a good environment to live in and grow, good access to sunlight, proper nutrients, and enough water supply. They also have different body parts that function accordingly and helps them adapt to changing seasons.

Leaves of a tree function as the breathing channel inhaling carbon dioxide through its tiny pores called stomata and exhaling oxygen during photosynthesis. In other words, the leaves serve as the lungs for the tree. But how can a tree survive without its leaves during autumn?

Autumn is the season occurring between summer and winter. It is the transition period between the summer heat and the winter cold. In the U.S., it is also called fall because leaves fall from the trees at this time. Interestingly, even if a tree is bald or not having any single leaf, it is still living until it reaches another season.

Deciduous trees like aspen, ash, beech, birch, cherry, oak, and maple trees shed off leaves as a preparation for the winter. As the weather changes to lesser sunlight, hormones in deciduous trees signal to its body that it’s time to shed off leaves. But before this process, the tree will absorb as many nutrients that it can store for later use. (click here for more details)

The shedding of the leaves is not simply blown off but is separated from the tree in a highly controlled process. It is scientifically called the abscission process. During this period, chlorophyll production is stopped, and the leaves pigment degrades, often green leaves turn yellow and red because the vessels that carry water to the leaf and sugars to the rest of the plant are closed off. The abscission layer starts growing between the leaf stalk and the twig holding it. These cells are responsible for cutting off the leaves without leaving an open wound to the tree. (click here for more details)

Meanwhile, Evergreen trees experience year-round foliage. They can survive without leaves because they mostly live in a warm or wet environment, and they have narrower, weather-resistant needles compared to large leaves of the deciduous trees. These leaves require a significant amount of energy to maintain.

Trees drop their leaves during the fall season as a form of self-protection. Primarily, to survive the harsh weather conditions. Since most deciduous trees have broader leaves, these can be damaged during the cold and dry weather. Also, it helps the tree save water and energy from focusing on root growth during the fall. After the leaves’ shedding, it would be easier for pollen to be carried by the wind and reach more trees. This helps the pollination process.

In the absence of the leaves, trees survive by breathing through the other parts of its body. Without leaves, roots and stems are utilized by the trees for their respiration.

Respiration in Roots

The plant absorbs air from the air spaces found between the soil particles through extensions of the epidermal cells of a root called root hairs by a process called diffusion. The absorbed oxygen through the roots is used to release energy, which is later utilized for the transportation of minerals and salts from the soil. (click here for more details)

Respiration in Stems

The soft stem of a plant has stomata, whereas the hard and woody stems of large plants and trees have lenticels.

Respiration in the stem occurs when the air gets diffused in the stomata and passes through various parts of the plant cell for respiration. The carbon dioxide that is produced during this stage also diffuses through the stomata. In higher plants or woody plants, the gaseous exchange is carried out by lenticels.

Similar to humans that all the parts of the body function and help each other in the absence of a single body part. Similarly, all the plant’s parts perform respiration separately. There is s a little transport of respiratory gases from one part of the plant to another during respiration.