The trees are talking – are you?

Did you know that trees communicate?  If there is a tree-disease or something that might put their survival in jeopardy they will let the others round them know.

I didn’t know this until a friend told me during a walk through a pine forest and we discussed it for at least two miles! I thought it was a lovely sentiment and I wished it to be true. I was delighted when my digital friend Alexa confirmed that German forester and author, Peter Wohlleben, says it is so.

I was intrigued so I picked up a copy of his book, The Hidden Life of Trees.   Wohlleben believes that “To reach enormousness, they (trees) depend on a complicated web of relationships, alliances and kinship network”.  Nice, huh?  He goes on to say that “forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence.”

“To reach enormousness, they (trees) depend on a complicated web of relationships, alliances and kinship network” Peter Wohlleben

This got me thinking about my own network.  I thrive on the energy I get from other people, and as much as I would like to meet everyone for tea and cake, time (and my waistline) does not allow. For this reason, my online relationships are just as real as physical interactions and I love sharing in other’s successes, be that a contract win for growing a start-up business, or the first day of primary school.

Wohlleben’s book also made me think about the support we offer each other, regardless of age, experience or success. If you think about how a forest is made up it’s a blend of different types of trees, aspens and birches co-exist with fir and pine trees. The laws of natural selection suggest they should be competing for resources, instead the trees share resources and form alliances with their neighbours to sustain a healthy forest. Together they are better protected against a strong wind or biting frost than they would be standing alone.

Like a tree, I grow and become stronger from the people that surround me.  I get courage from the support of my family and friends, and referrals from my business network deepens that belief.  I do what I can to strengthen my network by introducing people who could help each other, and I try to share what I know with people that are keen to learn more. On the flip side, when the kids are driving me crazy or I’m feeling a little bit lost with my work, it’s my network who keep me going.

Of course, many in the science community do not agree with Wohlleben. Some scientists are at odds with considering trees as thinking, feeling and speaking beings, and to transfer such human emotions to what is essentially biological occurrences is incorrect. I understand this point of view, evidenced by years of academic studies and experiments, but emotive words fires up my imagination and interest more than technical papers and scientific rationale.

If you prefer video to books, Suzanne Simard’s TED talk “How Trees Talk to Each Other” has had over 3 million views and her research in the Canadian forest echoes Wohlleben’s book. If you get the chance to read or watch, you will never look at a tree the same again.

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