How to eat a tree

How to Eat a Tree was developed by the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources & Conservation (SFRC) Extension Programs.

More information can be found here.

Lesson Summary

Students are introduced to a basic insect-plant relationship—herbivory. They learn about three different sources of food that a tree might provide (leaves, sap, and wood); six different insects’ specific approaches to eating those three parts of trees; and the defensive strategies employed by trees to prevent being eaten. The activity allows you to introduce the concept of specificity in an insect-plant relationship—a tree host may only be susceptible to damage by a particular insect predator in a particular region under the right environmental conditions. This is illustrated visually by an impact triangle, an important forest health concept.

For this activity, students work in groups to read about insect interactions on one of three tree food sources and then create personal advertisements to help match trees to insects that can feed on them. The ads highlight the needs of insects and trees without identifying them by name. The entire class attempts to pair anonymous insects with trees based on the requirements specified by each organism in its ad. In the discussion that follows, you may contextualize the organism match-ups in terms of the impact triangle—unmatched trees have evolved defenses to discourage herbivory, and unmatched insects have specialized feeding requirements that preclude eating some kinds of trees. Finally, students demonstrate understanding by individually completing an impact triangle describing an insect-tree relationship not covered by their group.

Please note all credits go to by the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources & Conservation (SFRC) Extension Programs. Plant Heroes did not create any of the materials shared here.

U.S. Regions
High School

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