When it comes to wood and trees, I think that what makes it stand out from the other elements covered is how wood, unlike fire, water, stone, or air is how wood is alive and ever-changing. It’s stable, but it’s constantly changing and growing beyond what it was. In folklore, this idea of constant change or shifting perspective can be found all the time.
As mentioned by Shannon, in different fairy tales and folk stories, the woods are often seen as a dangerous place where the heroes are faced with trials. In Hansel and Gretel, the woods is where the two children are abandoned and left to fend for themselves, and eventually, it’s where they must face off against the witch. In the Brothers Grimm’s retelling of Rapunzel, the prince is flung from the tower and is blinded by the thorny bushes below and he’s only healed when he is reunited with Rapunzel, where her tears heal his eyes. (Also I only put two and two together but the scene in Tangled where Rapunzel heals Flynn/Eugene is a possible homage to the original story since her tears are what heal him in the scene, not her hair) Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is also a good point of reference since the woods in the film serve both as a place of safety where Aurora/Briar Rose is hidden away but it also serves as an obstacle later on in the film where Maleficent curses the castle to be surrounded by thorns.
For me, one non-Disney story I love is the Scottish story of Tam Lin. Basically, in the story this daughter of a noble, Janet, is given a plot of land covered in woods that are supposedly haunted by a fae spirit. Turns out it’s just a mortal named Tam Lin who was kidnapped by the local Fairy Queen and he’s about to be a human sacrifice to hell on Halloween. Janet, feeling pretty brave, hikes up her skirt Halloween night and tackles Tam Lin off his horse like a linebacker and the Fairy Queen, being petty, turns him into tons of different animals and objects like a lion, a swan, a serpent, fire, a hot piece of iron, etc, in an effort to make Janet let go. Janet, though, is smart and doesn’t let go, so Tam Lin is saved from the Fairy Queen’s curse, and eventually, Tam Lin and Janet get married.
Also, side note, I really loved that Tolu brought up Mario Kart and how they design trees. I really love how Nintendo designed trees in Zelda: Breath of the Wild and how pretty they design the different flora and the different terrains in the game.