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Taking Inventory: Sapling


The sapling, our item of the week, was the first item in Minecraft. It’s true – it was added to the game in the pre-Classic phase, in patch rd-161348, about four days after the very first build of the game was compiled.

Did you know you can still play these ancient, early versions of Java Edition? In fact, the launcher makes it quite easy. Go to the “Installations” tab, hit “New”, and then under “version” scroll down to the very bottom where you’ll find many of the earliest builds of the game. Marvel at how the game was still actually pretty fun in those days, even though you could neither mine nor craft.

Back to saplings. At the time they were added, they joined five blocks – dirt, grass, stone, cobblestone, and planks (and air?) – and they made Minecraft’s landscapes a little more interesting. However, their key feature – growing into trees – didn’t arrive until several months later. 

Today, saplings come in six different varieties – oak, birch, spruce, jungle, acacia, and dark oak. To grow into a tree, they need to be planted on dirt, coarse dirt, podzol, grass, or farmland – and they need light.  A light level of eight, to be specific. It’ll also need space (which differs depending on the type of tree).

Other than those requirements, though, trees will grow just about anywhere – including the Nether and the End (as long as you bring some dirt to plant them on). Make yourself a little pocket of home in another dimension! 

Want saplings? Chop down a tree. Each leaf block has a 5% chance of dropping a sapling when destroyed (for jungle trees it’s half that). Can’t find a tree for some reason? Saplings also can be found in village chests and woodland mansions, and they are sold by wandering traders for five emeralds. Pricy.

In the real world, saplings are also baby trees – but they have a tighter definition than that. Specifically, according to Merriam-Webster, saplings can’t be more than about ten centimetres in diameter at chest height (human chest, not Minecraft chest). More than that and they’re a tree.

The word sapling originated somewhere in the early 14th century, and comes from the word “sap”, which is what the liquid that carries nutrients through a tree is called. Only the outermost layers of a tree (known as the sapwood) carry the sap, and a sapling is made of only sapwood. The innermost bits are called “heartwood”, and are denser and harder – they give the tree its rigidity, like a skeleton.

Most Minecraft players end up accumulating a lot of saplings during their adventuring career, so here are four tips for using them up. First, you can plant them. If you don’t replant trees regularly, then you’ll find it a real pain to trek longer and longer distances to collect wood as you cut down forests nearby. Second, you can plant them in flowerpots, where they’ll stay ♫ foreeeeever youuung ♫.

Tip three: saplings in a composter have a 30% chance of raising the compost level by one, making it faster to grow new trees. Finally, tip four is that saplings can be used as fuel – smelting half an item per sapling (the same rate as a stick).

So there you go. No need for them to pile up in your chests. Make those saplings work for you!

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere

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