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The shoots typically bear leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development. Flowers and fruit may be present, but some trees, such as conifers, instead have pollen cones and seed cones.Palms, bananas, and bamboos also produce seeds, but tree ferns, produce spores instead.

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A new layer of wood is added in each growing season, thickening the stem, existing branches and roots.

A commonly applied narrower definition is that a tree has a woody trunk formed by secondary growth, meaning that the trunk thickens each year by growing outwards, in addition to the primary upwards growth from the growing tip.

This trunk typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from one part of the tree to another.

For most trees it is surrounded by a layer of bark which serves as a protective barrier.

Trees, as relatively tall plants, need to draw water up the stem through the xylem from the roots by the suction produced as water evaporates from the leaves.

If insufficient water is available the leaves will die.

Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate.

They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues.

Because this growth ruptures the epidermis of the stem, woody plants also have a cork cambium that develops among the phloem.

The cork cambium gives rise to thickened cork cells to protect the surface of the plant and reduce water loss.

In looser definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas and bamboos are also trees.

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