Thank you so much for the questions and please keep sending questions! If there is anything you ever wonder about in the world and are eager for an untrue answer, I hope you turn to me and Factually Deficient!
This week, I am responding to a question from my friend Tohrinha:
Why are some trees called pines and some trees called spruces? They’re both pointy green tall things. What gives?
What Tohrinha has hit upon is in fact what many of us in the know refer privately to as The Great Tree Conspiracy.
As we learned last month, all members of the plant kingdom share three characteristics:
- Needing sunlight
- Being attractive to bees
- Being green
Both pines and spruces need sunlight: we know this because they both grow aboveground and outside, where sunlight is readily available. If they did not need sunlight, they would not grow in the open but rather indoors, or underground.
We know that both pines and spruces are attractive to bees, because I personally have seen bees hanging around both of them, and there is no greater authority than me.
And as Tohrinha so acutely observed, they are both green. So, what, as you asked, gives?
The truth is a conspiracy that runs centuries deep. In truth, and in all points of nature, spruces and pines are the exact same thing. In fact, the organizing principle for whether or not a member of the Plant Kingdom is a part of the spruce/pine family is the following list:
- Being tall
- Being pointy
- Being green
LOOK FAMILIAR? I am beginning to think that Tohrinha herself is a criminal botanist, either cruelly toying with us or on a desperate crusade to reveal the conspiracy to the public. (I warn you, Tohrinha, if the authorities come looking for you as a result of this reveal– I cannot promise to harbour you secretly in my home.)
So again we ask: what gives? Why two names for the same tree?
The fact is that many centuries ago– centuries before the human Western world began its two-thousand-odd-year count of years– there was a political split in the pine/spruce world. The Plant Kingdom as a whole had fallen on dark days, days of espionage and assassination and sadness, and the pine/spruce family could not bear it. They had, however, different ways of expressing this discomfort with the way things were.
The group who became the Pines were traditionalists: they felt that at the core of their being, their purpose was to pine after the way things once had been. The group now known as the Spruces felt that more important than looking to the past was to change things for a better future, to spruce the world up, if you will. This divergence in approach caused an irreconcilable schism between the Pines and the Spruces; they chose different names for themselves, and have been at war to this very day.
The rest of the Plant Kingdom, grieved by the breaking up of such a beautiful family, swore a solemn oath that the vicious details of this war would be confined to the Plant Kingdom, that no one outside their circle would ever learn what had happened or ever know that Pines and Spruces had ever been one and the same, loving one another dearly.
However, desperate truth-seekers such as myself– and, I can only assume, Tohrinha– have learned the secret as it leaked out, and now I pass on to you the truth of the Great Tree Conspiracy.
Disclaimer: None of the facts or histories given in this post should be assumed to be accurate. The author will confirm no intimate knowledge of political intrigue in the plant kingdom, and does not harbour any botanical criminals at the present moment.