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Do Trees Fart?

"Do Trees Fart?" artwork. Tree with gas cloud near it.


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Transcript-Do Trees Fart
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Do trees fart? It’s a question that stumped scientists, and sends us on a journey to some serious science! Come with us as we ponder if trees are butts, whether farts are defined by gas or digestive systems, and why “even the smallest fart counts.”

You’ll meet Mary Heskel, a plant biologist who wonders if she’s accidentally been studying tree farts, and Melinda Martinez, who studies climate change and happily calls herself a tree fart scientist.

Meet Melinda

When you're in the middle of a forest, who you gonna call? Ghostbuster Melinda Martinez! Melinda is a PhD candidate at North Carolina State University. Melinda measures gas emissions from dead trees to see how ghost forests contribute to climate change!

On top of Melinda's awesome studies on tree farts, she's an artist! In October 2020, she participated in the SciArt Collaboration Challenge. Melinda created fun and engaging paintings as part of the competition's goal to communicate science through art.

Melinda's 4 paintings with trees and a map.

Taking Curiosity to the Internet: Mary's Tweet on Tree Farts

After thinking about her daughter's question on whether or not trees fart, plant biologist Mary Heskel took to social media to answer the question. The science community had a lot to say for both sides of the argument.

Tree Fart Research

We fart! And apparently, trees do too! There’s still so much to discover when studying tree farts, especially if we want to understand why the process happens and what it means for our planet's future.

Emily Petsko breaks down the definition of farting and asks why some trees are a lot more likely to fart than others.

What do NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have in common with Melinda Martinez? Both agencies offer Melinda over 30 years of photos and data to better understand the changing environments of forests. With this, she is able to observe how wetlands influence the growth of ghost forests and existence of tree farts.

Like human farts, tree farts release methane into the air. While each tree's emissions are small, the total impact is incredibly significant (fun fact, there are trillions of trees spanning the Earth).

National Geographic has a great article explaining how trees' methane emissions contribute to climate change and why understanding this gas is important.

Visual Proof of Lighting Tree Farts on Fire!

Curious about what lighting a tree fart on fire looks like? This video is an INCREDIBLE demonstration of how a tree emits methane and how scientists can use this gas from the tree to start a fire without burning any wood.

"Mom, Do Trees Fart?"

What do you think makes a fart funny? The silly sound? The funky smell? Listen to what Mary's daughter thinks and hear the original inspiration behind the discovery of whether or not trees fart.


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