The man who thinks trees talk to each other | Environment | The Guardian
Trees have friends, feel loneliness, scream with pain and communicate underground via the “woodwide web”. Some act as parents and good neighbours. Others do more than just throw shade – they’re brutal bullies to rival species. The young ones take risks with their drinking and leaf-dropping then remember the hard lessons from their mistakes. It’s a hard-knock life.
A book called The Hidden Life of Trees is not an obvious bestseller but it’s easy to see the popular appeal of German forester Peter Wohlleben’s claims – they are so anthropomorphic. Certainly, a walk in the park feels different when you imagine the network of roots crackling with sappy chat beneath your feet. We don’t know the half of what’s going on underground and beneath the bark, he says: “We have been looking at nature for the last 100 years like [it is] a machine.”
There’s a touchy-feely warmth to the book – an “ouch!” when he describes trees having branches hacked, roots cut or being gnawed by insects – and he talks about “brainlike things” going on in trees that enable them to learn over their long lifetimes. He points to scientific research – by Aachen University, the University of British Columbia and the Max Planck Society – that he claims underpins all his vivid descriptions, but he writes as a conservationist and admits that much is still unknown. “It’s very hard to find out what trees are communicating when they feel well,” he says.
Hidden Life of Trees