Myth Busting Monday: Breathing Trees

It’s Myth Busting Monday time! This is one that has many variations, all with a seed of truth… 

Myth: Plants breathe CO2 during the day, and oxygen during the night

Truth: OK, so this is almost right. Plants do indeed ‘breathe’ or take up carbon dioxide (CO2) when the sun is shining, because they use it to make sugars in a process called photosynthesis (‘oh, I’ve heard of that!’).

Photosynthesis converts sunlight and CO2 into sugars found in plants, and produces oxygen as a by-product. Photosynthesis is ultimately the oxygen and food source of every living being on the planet…but of course, it can only happen while the sun is shining.

Speaking of every living being on the planet, there’s another process that goes on in all their cells – it’s called cellular respiration, and it converts oxygen and sugars into energy that can be used by their cells. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of this process.

Plants are awesome because they do both these processes. During the day while they’re photosynthesising, they don’t need to take up oxygen from the atmosphere because they’re producing so much of it already. But they do need to take up oxygen at night time to complete the cellular respiration process. Luckily for us, they produce about 10 times the amount of oxygen they use themselves.

So trees are pretty great. This magnificent specimen is a Kauri pine, located outside the Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba. It was sadly too large to hug properly, but we gave it a nice bark-rub.

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