Are there Trees on Mars?


Plant Life? Animal Life? Or Both?

Take a look at some of these images from Mars' south pole.
Do they resemble vegetation seen from a high altitude?

The
image above is cropped from m0804688a, found on the PDS m0804688a Browse Page.
PDS does not give a discription of this image - just the word sample.
full image of section m0804688a

The lower portion of this image is packed with what looks to some like Martian vegetation.
But is it?

For a very interesting report about the notion that there might be seasonal vegetation on Mars
please see the article, Views on the Martian Polar Spring at
The Electric Warrior.
The author covers a lot of subjects relative to life in any environment
and makes an interesting case for vegetation on Mars.

As a geologist, I see in these images the geomorphology. It is there, regardless of vegetation or animal life.
As a seeker/believer of/in life on other planets, my mind and imagination
are wide open to all the possibilities, however fantastic they may be.

Here is another image
from the MOC Image m0804874 PDS Browse Page.

The above is cropped from the center of the full resolution jpeg image.

I
chose this section because of the lighter areas that separate the darker dendritic tree-like areas. It has the look of higher and lower elevations. This image looks more close up - it is a different resolution than m0804688. (see the article at The Electric Warrior site) The images can easily be compared to geologic features on Earth. The branching patterns resemble dendritic and radial drainage patterns more than they do trees. On Earth such drainage patterns are most often present where the land is thick with vegetation.

Dendritic and radial drainage patterns

Drawings of dendritic and radial terrain

Drainage
patterns vary according to the structure of the terrain and the kinds of rock the streams flow through. The word, dendritic means tree-like. Dendritic stream patterns are the most common. Dendritic patterns form on homogeneous rock, where resistance to erosion is fairly uniform. It is the slope of the land, not the rocks, that mainly determines where and how channels form - usually random branching, at various angles like the branches of a tree. In contrast, if the land has a lot of joints or faults (or both) the streams will flow through these more easily eroded openings and produce a sort of rectangular pattern with many right angle bends.
Radial
drainage patterns form on domal structures like volcanic cones, or any dome or cone shaped landform. The channels radiate out and flow down all around the structure. This drainage pattern forms on newly made landforms such as volcanoes. Is it possible that radial drainage patterns form as the warm spring weather melts the icy hills of Mars' South Pole? I think it is - if there are hills there.


Compare this image cropped from m0804580 Browse Page.
(titled Terrain immediately south of Mars Polar Lander primary ellipse)

And this one cropped from m08195 Browse Page.

(also titled Terrain immediately south of Mars Polar Lander primary ellipse)

to this Earth image of the Loess Plateau in Shanxi Province, China.

from Geomorphology from Space

Is there any resemblance to any of the shapes in the Mars images?

Bear in mind the differences in cameras, pixels, light and shadow, etc., etc.
And, most importantly, there is some vegetation in the Earth image.

See more images and information about the Shanxi Province at Geomprphology from Space.

You can read about fluvial landforms and drainage systems at
FLUVIAL LANDFORMS at the Geomorphology from Space web site.

You may see the resemblance to some of these Martian landscapes - some, not all.


Image below - also from the m0804580 images

Is there some form of vegetation on Mars?

Are these Martian trees?


Before I get into enhanced 3D images and some examples of living, growing - and spreading - things,

there is another geological possibility.

Star Dunes

A
dune is a mound or ridge of sand deposited by wind. But a dune could be composed of windblown snow as well. Wind carries a sediment load much the same as a stream. Like a stream, its competence depends on particle size and the energy involved. Near the ground wind velocity varies, according to the character of the surface. Irregularities and obstacles like small projections and outcrops, or clumps of vegetation disrupt the flow of air and slow it down. Wind moves over and around an object, such as a rock, creating a shadow - or pocket - of less energetic air in front of and behind the object. Where the wind looses competence sand falls out of suspension and forms mounds.
Mounds
grow into dunes as sand accumulates. Vegetation, surface features, the amount of available sand, and of course wind action, determine dune patterns. Some of the features seen in the south polar regions of Mars resemble star dunes.
Star
dunes are hills of sand having a radial structure that kind of resembles a star-like pattern. That is they have three or more arms (or ridges) that extend out from the high central part of the dune. Star dunes are also pyramidal. Unlike other dunes, Stars do not travel laterally. They form in areas where the wind blows from all directions. This keeps them pretty much in one place. They grow upward in peaks as the wind deposits sand all around them. Such enduring structures are capable of supporting vegetation - should it happen to migrate along with the windblown sand.

Really Cool Star Dunes
USGS Article - Types of Dunes

Click for larger image
Compound star dunes of Algeria from
PLATE E-3 ERG CHECH AND YETTI EGLAB MASSIF, Geomorphology from Space

Star dunes do not always show up so clearly defined.
Dune formations can be a complex mix of many patterns. Stars often form within the shelter of linear dunes. Compound dunes are made of two or more types of dune structures.

- - - - -

Various Images of Star Dunes from Algeria -- Click for larger image
probably the Grand Erg Oriental
Images from NASA, Shuttle Missions, in league with all the others - USGS, etc., et al

-
Compound crescentic dunes, and star dunes
the Rub´al Khali, the Empty Quarter of southern Saudi Arabia.
I put these images here to illustrate the photographic strangeness of dunes.
DUNES OF THE EMPTY QUARTER from Geomorphology from Space



Star Dunes?
from m0804580, segment b

Dunes?
from m0804580, bottom

Star Dunes?
from m0804874, segment b

Is
the landscape of the Martian southern hemisphere decorated with star dunes, or fields of compound dunes made of snow? Maybe there are some remnants of volcanoes or cinder cones mixed in with the dunes - their icy slopes creating strange patterns as their radial drainage systems thaw. Are there other glacial features, such as arêtes, horns, nunataks, or worn down cirques playing tricks in the sublimating Martian snow?



Page Two


-- Image Credits --

Mars Global Surveyor MOC Images -PDS Images Planetary Image Atlas

Geomorphology from Space - Home Page
USGS - General-Interest Publications [Online]