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A tree can be more than just a tree. Sometimes a tree is a marvel of reproduction. Other times, it is a cancer fighter. Occasionally, a tree is even a fascinating ecosytem. Photos courtesy of Liz West, Falon West, Alexander Synaptic and Wikipedia.

More Than A Tree

Over half of Washington state is covered in forest. That's nearly 2 billion trees — 252 for every person living here. We see them everywhere — in parks, out our living room windows and even along highway corridors. But we rarely see them in the headlines.

This series highlights five Pacific Northwest trees that deserve a closer look. We get to know a tree that has orbited the moon, a tree that gave us one of the most important cancer treatments of the last 50 years and a tree that has sperm (yes, sperm) that looks strangely human.

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Ginkgo leaf. Photo by monteregina. Visit the photo slideshow.

Birds And The Bees

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet ginkgo biloba. It's a common street tree in Seattle, but its reproductive cycle is anything but ordinary. Like humans, ginkos have free–swimming sperm. We meet to two ginkgos near Green Lake Park and talk "birds and bees" with tree expert Arthur Lee Jacobson.

Listen to this story Yew berries. Photo by Liz West. View the photo slideshow for this segment.

An Unlikely Hero

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Pacific Yew isn't a heroic looking tree. It's scrawny and slow growing. But, this unassuming conifer has saved thousands of lives. We meet a scientist and a cancer survivor to learn how yew bark led to one of the most important medical discoveries of our time.

Listen to this story A nurse log on Vancouver Island. Photo by Larissa Sayer. View photo slideshow for this story.

Lessons From A Nurse Log

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When a tree falls in the Pacific Northwest, it takes just as long to rot away as it did to grow into a tree. These decaying trees are called "nurse logs." They harbor whole new ecosystems of life. We explore the science and symbolism of our region's iconic nurse logs.

Listen to this story Olympia's moon Tree. Photo by Sarah Waller. Visit the photo slideshow for this story.

Olympia's Moon Tree

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Something out of this world is growing on the Capital campus in Olympia. In 1971, an astronaut took about 500 tree seeds to the moon. One of those seeds ended up in Olympia. We visit the Moon Tree 41 years after its lunar orbit to find out why its future is uncertain.

Listen to this story Patricia Otto holding a photo of her mother's burial at The Meadows Cemetery in Ferndale, Washington. Photo by Sarah Waller. View the photo slideshow for story.

Reincarnation At The Meadows Cemetery

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reincarnation is often thought of in spiritual terms, but science has its own version. It's called "nutrient cycling." We visit a cemetery to meet a woman who planted a tree on her mother's grave and considers life–after–death through the eyes of a biologist.

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Photo Slideshow: Birds And The Bees

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Photo Slideshow: An Unlikely Hero

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Photo Slideshow: Lessons From A Nurse Log

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Photo Slideshow: Olympia's Moon Tree

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Photo Slideshow: Reincarnation At The Meadows Cemetery

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Special Thanks

The KUOW Program Venture Fund, Paul and Laurie Ahern, KUOW's Board of Directors, KUOW members, the National Science Foundation, Jim Gates, Derek Wang, Andy Hurst, Don Yates and A.M. Glyph.

Written and produced by Sarah Waller.

Edited by Jim Gates.