A tree is a plant form that occurs in many different orders and families of plants. Most species of trees today are flowering plants (Angiosperms) and conifers. Trees show a variety of growth forms, leaf type and shape, bark characteristics and reproductive organs. For the listing of examples of well-known trees and how they are classified, see List of tree genera.
The tree form has evolved separately in unrelated classes of plants, in response to similar environmental challenges, making it a classic example of parallel evolution. With an estimate of 100,000 tree species, the number of tree species worldwide might total 25 percent of all living plant species. The majority of tree species grow in tropical regions of the world and many of these areas have not been surveyed yet by botanists, making species diversity and ranges poorly understood. The earliest tree-like organisms were tree ferns, horsetails and lycophytes, which grew in forests in the Carboniferous period, however these were plants were not trees, since they lacked woody tissue. Trees evolved in the Triassic period, with conifers, ginkgos, cycads and other gymnosperms appeared producing woody tissue, and were subsequently followed by tree-form flowering plants in the Cretaceous period.
A small group of trees growing together is called a grove or copse, and a landscape covered by a dense growth of trees is called a forest. Several biotopes are defined largely by the trees that inhabit them; examples are rainforest and taiga (see ecozones). A landscape of trees scattered or spaced across grassland (usually grazed or burned over periodically) is called a savanna. A forest of great age is called old growth forest or ancient woodland (in the UK). A young tree is called a sapling.
Tree roots anchor the structure and provide water and nutrients. The ground has eroded away around the roots of this young pine tree.
Many trees show strong apical dominance....