Tree-Mendous Love

How Trees Care for Each Other



Imagepluss/Shutterstock.com

From learning to communicate to physically caring for each other, the secret lives of trees are wildly deep and complex.

“They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the ‘wood wide web’; and keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots,” reveals Peter Wohlleben, a German forest ranger and author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, released in September.

Upon seeing two soaring beeches in the forest, Wohlleben observes, “These trees are friends. See how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light. Sometimes, pairs are so interconnected at the roots that when one tree dies, the other one dies, too.”

Wohlleben is rekindling a re-imagination of trees even as many people consider their role is only to supply us with oxygen and wood. Using a mix of scientific research and his own observations from studying forestry and working in the forest since 1987, the man who speaks for the trees does so in decidedly anthropomorphic terms.

“Scientific language removes all the emotion, and people don’t understand it anymore. I use a human language. When I say, ‘Trees suckle their children,’ everyone knows immediately what I mean,” he says.

After years of working for the state forestry administration in Rhineland-Palatinate, and then as a forester managing 3,000 acres of woods near Cologne, he began to understand that contemporary practices were not serving the trees or those that depend on them very well. Artificially spacing out trees ensures that trees get more sunlight and grow faster, but naturalists report that trees exist less like individuals and more as communal beings. By working together in networks and sharing resources, they increase their resistance to potentially damaging influences.

After researching alternative approaches, Wohlleben began implementing some revolutionary concepts. He replaced heavy machinery with horses, stopped using insecticides and let the woods become wilder. The pilot German forest plot went from losing money to posting a profit in two years.

As Dr. Seuss’ tree-loving Lorax says, “I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”


Melissa Breyer, of Brooklyn, NY, is the editor of Treehugger.com, from which this article was adapted.


This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

City Homesteading

Across the country, people in communities of all sizes are crafting ways to grow food, build eco-homes and live in harmony with the environment and each other.

Big Breakfast, Lower Body Mass

People that make breakfast their largest meal of the day have lower body mass, while those that make dinner the biggest meal are likely to weigh more, a recent study concluded.

Zinc Inhibits Throat Cancer

University of Texas researchers have found that zinc supplements can inhibit or slow the growth of esophageal cancer cells.

Moderate Exercise Guards Against Depression

A mere one hour of exercise a week reduced depression in 12 percent of Norwegian study participants.

Antidepressants in Pregnancy Linked to Autism

Children born to Swedish mothers that took antidepressants when pregnant had a slightly higher risk of autism compared to mothers with psychiatric conditions not taking the meds.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »This Month

Meditation in Boston

In Boston, there are many meditation styles and teachers with a variety of training and personalities to choose from.

Shiatsu's Saviors

Helen Keller’s and Marilyn Monroe’s Places in Shiatsu History
In 1948, during the American occupation of Japan, U.S. President Harry Truman criminalized the practice of Japanese traditional medicine including shiatsu. Many traditional doctors became unemployed, including the blind shiatsu practitioners.

Reiki Meditation

The Inner Determines the Outer
The system of reiki, as developed in Japan by its founder Mikao Usui, is a complete spiritual self-development system of wisdom and compassion teachings, based in meditation and contemplation practices.

Women’s Rehab Center in Portland Takes Alternative Approach to Opiate Addiction

Greener Pastures Holisticare (GPH), in Portland, Maine, announces the grand opening of Greener Pastures Women’s Recovery Home.

New Initiative Creates Foundation for Carbon Neutrality

All are invited to attend Let’s Talk Carbon Neutrality, an upcoming event to be held from 7 to 9 p.m., February 8, at Boston University.

Inspiring Author Shares Story of Courage

Filomena Tripp, author of Invisible Courage, will be speaking from 6 to 8 p.m., February 6, at the Lakeville Public Library.