Remember those fairy-tales where trees could walk, talk and feel? They might be based on real life! I am currently reading The hidden life of trees which feels exactly as Tim Flannery (introducing the book) describes it: a wonderland. The author, Peter Wohlleben works in the lumber industry and manages a forest with the purpose of harvesting it for commercial gain. His insights and his discoveries about trees have shaped the content of The hidden life of trees and reading it, you will feel once again, you do not know a thing about the universe or the world we all live in. At least, that is what I have learned from its teachings.
Once again, nature and research on nature have proved that Mother Earth has so much to teach us. As Shakespeare wrote:
“Keep these flowers. We’ll see how close art can come near their colors.”
Reading Peter Wohlleben’s work you will feel we must preserve nature as there is nothing else more important than our environment. Nature is wise. Nature is what we are made of and nature can shape our existence once more, for if, there is no more trees, there is no more life. I find the discoveries of this enchanted forest (as this is how it feels when you read through the truly hidden life of trees) are such an amazement that you will find yourself surprised and humbled by how little we care about the world we live in. Another quote from Shakespeare pops my mind:
“Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners.”
Forest trees communicate between themselves to make sure they act in unity, because if they would not do that, there would not be a forest anymore. A forest is made up of all trees in it. It is a community that feeds itself, that takes care of the weakened trees, that protects and makes possible the biodiversity in it, it is a community that knows how to act in accord to maintain the balance and to grow strong. A forest tree knows how to speak to other trees as this is what parent trees teach their children. Yes, trees have children and they grow by their parents side. Upbringing is a special process through which the child tree is not let to grow at the speed of light, rather it is deprived of it, because a tree that grows slow is a tree that will live longer. Have you heard of that lifestyle in which if you eat less, you live longer? It works for trees! Another surprising knowledge is that planted tree forests (so not wild forests) are incapable of networking with one another because their roots are irreparably damaged when they are planted.
Crops need pesticides and all those chemicals because they cannot communicate with one another and cannot inform themselves of the dangers that awaits them as trees do in forests. Forest trees can use scent or wind to attract specific predators for the predator that the tree has. It can signal this to the neighboring trees and it can plump toxins in the leaves that are eaten by predators so that they stop eating them. Because of this communication, the other trees understand the risk and take caution measures which in turn, protects the ecosystem because they are no longer threatened. When they do not react, the trees are harmed. If all trees were harmed, then there would not longer be a forest. Unity is creating community. Wouldn’t that be brave of us to do the same thing? Another fascinating, if not close to sci-fi fact, is that the saliva of each species is different, and trees can match the saliva to the insect. The match is so precise that the tree can release pheromones the summon specific beneficial predators. The beneficial predators help trees by eagerly devouring the insects that are bothering them.
Do you have any remembrances from the creepy forest Snow White ran to, when she was let alive?
When Snow White ran through the forest, it appeared to become hostile towards her; an owl screeches at her, trees resemble leering faces, branches become talons snatching at her dress and floating logs become crocodiles snapping at her heels. After collapsing in fright, Snow White encounters the forest animals, and the forest seems less scary to Snow White, now that she has friends with her. The forest might feel creepy because it must protect the biodiversity and the ecosystem in it. If it feels someone is trying to destroy that harmony, it will react. Sure, Snow White was just a fairy tale, but, we all know where this leads to. Forests can be threatening and they should be. They are maybe protecting our future from our current mistakes.
The fungal connections at the bottom of forest trees transmit signals from one tree to the next one, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought and other dangers. In the symbiotic community of the forest, not only trees but also shrubs and grasses and possibly all plant species exchange information this way. However, when we step into farm fields, the vegetation becomes very quiet. Thanks to selective breeding, our cultivated plants have, for the most part, lost their ability to communicate above or below ground. Isolated by their silence, they are easy prey for insect pests. Another reason for which we should stop destroying wild crops and for taking care of the wild vegetation.
Trees synchronize their performances so that they are all equally successful. We should all stop being so competitive at work and work for a common purpose. This is what I am getting from the tree’s wisdom. The trees are equalizing differences between the strong and the weak. Whether they are thin or thick, all members of the same species are using light to produce the same amount of sugar per leaf. This takes place through the roots and fungi are involved as their enormous networks act as gigantic redistribution mechanisms. When trees grow together, nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be. Isn’t this beautiful? Sharing is caring! Reproduction at trees is planned at least one year in advance. I will let you pick the book and read about their love stories.
When trees are really thirsty, they begin to scream. This takes place at ultrasonic levels. Scientists recorded this and discovered a specific vibration that occurs in the trunk when the flow of water from the roots to the leaves is interrupted. The trees might be screaming our a dire warning to their peers that water levels are running slow.
There is so much more information and fantastical data and facts in this book that I feel it is an urgent read for all 7 billion people that we are on this planet. In this way, we would be able to see the impact wilderness has on life, on our life. Without the wild communication that exists out there, there would be no air, for forests provide oxygen. There would be no diversity in our ecosystems. There would be no fruits or vegetables. Remember reading about that enchanted lovely wonderful forest in our fairy tales when we were children, wishing we could speak to trees and be there to live the dream? The magic is real and we do live in an enchanted forest. We just need to open our eyes and our minds.