Capillary Action

Several factors are involved in capillary action. The first is cohesion, the tendency of molecules of a substance to stick together. Water is a cohesive element, with a level of cohesion, which creates a high degree of surface tension. When water is spilled on a table, it tends to stick together in a puddle, rather than spreading out, because it is cohesive.

The second factor is adhesion, the tendency of some substances to be drawn to unlike substances. In the example of a tree and the water in the ground, the liquid is drawn to the cellulose fibers in the tree trunk, which form small capillaries known as xylem. As the fluid adheres, it creates a meniscus, a small curve, along the edges of the xylem. The surface tension in the water causes the water to climb up as the meniscus forms, because the water molecules want to stay together, and a new meniscus will form as the water is drawn further up into the tree. Without any effort on its part, the tree can draw the water all the way up into its top branches.

~ Lessa Morfee

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