Wonder why I’m blogging about trees? On a writing and reading blog site? Well, I do have a point and I’ll get to it in the end. But before I can make that point, I need to meander a bit.
That brings me to trees and why I think they’re fascinating. Recently, I found a March 2018 Smithsonian Magazine article written by Richard Grant titled “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”
If you have the great fortune to live on or near property with a forest, or even a micro-forest of a few trees, large and small, you may believe that the trees are solitary loners who are constantly competing for space, nutrients, sunlight and water with all the other living things around them. And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that since that’s been the theory since Darwin. Today, however, there’s scientific evidence that refutes that idea.
In author Peter Wohlleben, bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, he concludes that trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought.
In Grant’s article Wohlleben says, “Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web. All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.”
Within this network, trees send chemical and hormonal signals. Scientists have even discovered electrical pulses that are very similar to animal nervous systems, not that trees have neurons or brains. It’s even been stated that trees have a sense of smell and taste and use it to fend off insects.
In another story within Grant’s article, Wohlleben relates that once he came across a gigantic beech stump in this forest, four or five feet across. The tree was felled 400 or 500 years ago, but scraping away the surface with his penknife, Wohlleben found something astonishing: the stump was still green with chlorophyll. There was only one explanation. The surrounding beeches were keeping it alive, by pumping sugar to it through the network. “When beeches do this, they remind me of elephants,” he says. “They are reluctant to abandon their dead, especially when it’s a big, old, revered matriarch.”
In an interview with Professor Suzanne Simard at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Grant asks why trees share resources and form alliances with trees of other species? Doesn’t the law of natural selection suggest they should be competing? “Actually, it doesn’t make evolutionary sense for trees to behave like resource-grabbing individualists,” Simard says. “They live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.”
Are there naysayers about these ideas? Absolutely. Most believe trees are too anthropomorphized, that trees don’t have a conscious life. Perhaps they are correct and everything trees do is survival-driven. But I believe that we don’t know everything and to suggest that we do is the height of arrogance.
“So, what’s your point, Artemis?” you may be asking right about now. My point is this:
If trees can live in cooperative societies, nurturing species that aren’t their own, or tending to stumps of trees that were felled centuries ago, why can’t humans do as much? Why can’t we find it in our hearts to care for people different from ourselves, our elderly, our sick, the millions of people in desperate need of a hand up?
How can it be that trees and fungus do more for each other, no matter how simple the reason, than humans do?
While I contemplate those questions, I think I’ll take a walk among the trees.
May your words flow freely,
Leona’s Descent – https://amzn.to/2yaDfjW
Libra’s Limbo – https://amzn.to/2q3VkNg
Leona’s Cage – https://amzn.to/2QTbVyp
Gemini Asunder – https://amzn.to/2PyNUig