I’ve recently become obsessed with tree resin. The smell of it, the texture, the way it gets all over me and makes me smell like a tree for a day. I’ve been trying to parse out the difference between resin and sap for a while, but it’s actually tough to do. Some sources seem to insist that resin is different than sap. They explain that sap is a less viscous substance that helps transport water, nutrients, and hormones throughout a tree. However, other sources use the two terms interchangeably. I tend to be of the mind that the runnier substances should be called sap and the thick, sticky, hardening globs are resin.
However, instead of getting bogged down in semantics, I really just want to point out a few neat things about this ooey gooey tree drip. It can often be observed after the tree has experienced some sort of trauma. In the case of the tree in this photo, it looked as though a good, long chunk of its bark and cambium (the layer under the bark) had been torn off. This is likely what caused the outpouring of sticky, sweet-smelling sap to cascade down the tree trunk. Think about when you have a cold or an allergy attack, and mucus rushes out of your nose as your body produces it in order to flush out unwanted irritants and pathogens. That is similar to how some trees react to distress. Something else cool to think about if you see a tree oozing sap? Look for insects, spiders, and plants caught and preserved in the goo.
Learn more about the anatomy of a tree, because trees are made up of a lot more than just wood. And if you’re interested in something completely different, read my short poem inspired by this magnificent, “melting” tree:
Golden ice sickles,
Why do I feel the need to describe this runny resin through comparison?
Smell it, and it's tree cologne
Poke it, and it's honey mixed with glue
Taste it (I had to), and it's disappointingly tasteless,
Like stained glass that looks as though it should be candy
It leaks from this Douglas-fir like blood from a vicious wound,
Yet it gushes in slow motion - a tree, bleeding in tree time