Why Do Some Trees Keep Their Leaves in Winter?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Have you ever wondered why some trees keep their leaves in winter when all the other leaves fall off? Trees have different life cycles, and are either called deciduous (de-SID-you-us) or evergreen. Trees with flat, wide leaves that turn pretty colors in the fall are deciduous. They will drop their leaves when the weather gets cold. Evergreen trees, on the other hand, lose their leaves throughout the year a little bit at a time.

First, we need to talk about how trees get food, or energy. Trees use the energy from sunlight and water to turn carbon dioxide into a kind of food. This process is called photosynthesis (foe-toe-SIN-thuh-SIS). The days get shorter in fall and winter, so there is less sun energy to use. Deciduous trees close up the little holes where the leaves attach so they don’t lose moisture (MOYS-chur), or water. This makes the leaves drop off. Evergreen trees don’t have to drop their leaves.

Evergreen trees first came from cold climates. (But you can find many in warm tropical rainforests too.) They have very strong leaves rolled up tight, like long, thin needles. This shape allows the evergreens to conserve water, which is needed for photosynthesis. Because they have more water than their deciduous cousins, their leaves stay green, and stay attached longer. Evergreen needles also have a very waxy coating that also helps save water during summer and winter. Christmas trees are generally evergreens like spruce, fir, or pine.

To learn more about the lives of trees, watch this short film at National Geographic

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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The Little News Ears Podcast Helps Keep Kids Informed Without Overwhelming Them

Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Ranta Images/iStock via Getty Images

Kids are often curious about things they overhear on television or in conversations around them, but trying to translate that information into a kid-friendly format isn’t always easy. That’s where Little News Ears can help.

The program, available both as a podcast and as a YouTube video series, explains intriguing news stories to children in a simple, upbeat, and often funny way. In it, a young boy named Bram, a futuristic dog-like being named BoxerBlu, and a loris named Otis cover everything from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step away from their royal duties to people mudlarking (hunting for treasure) along the River Thames. More serious topics, like the deaths of high-profile people, are presented “in the vein of Fred Rogers teaching children about the Kennedy assassination,” as the website explains.

Little News Ears was created by Dan Buck, a former primary school teacher who now serves as the Head of School at Tessa International School in Hoboken, New Jersey. While the focus of the series itself is to express the news in ways that preschoolers and elementary school students can understand without frightening or overwhelming them, the website also includes lesson plans, vocabulary lists, and other resources to help parents and teachers learn how best to educate children on current events.

Usually, Little News Ears is offered as a subscription service—$6 per month or $55 for an entire year—but Buck and his team have made the program, along with the supplemental materials for educators, completely free for as long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts. You can learn more about the site and sign up for free access here.