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Trees Talk to Each Other in a Language We Can Learn

By Azriel ReShel on Saturday April 28th, 2018

Web of the Woods

A walk amongst the trees is rejuvenating, nourishing and healing, yet a forest is so much more than an amazing collection of trees. There is a lot going on in the forests that we can’t see. Ecologist Suzanne Simard says trees have a sophisticated and interconnected social network existing underground.

A world of infinite, biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate, and allow the forest to behave as if it’s a single organism.

Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery: trees talk, communicating often and over vast distances. Trees are much more like us humans that you may think. They are extremely social and depend on each other for their survival. Communication is vital, and a massive web of hair-like mushroom roots transmit secret messages between trees, triggering them to share nutrients and water with those in need.

Suzanne grew up in the magnificent forests of British Columbia. She shares how she’d lie down on the forest floor and stare up at the crowns of the giant trees. An accident with her dog who fell into their forest outhouse and had to be dug out, led her to discover the incredible underground root and mycelial network she would later research. When she returned to the study of trees later in life, she learnt how scientists had just discovered in the laboratory, that one pine seedling root could transmit carbon to another pine seedling root.

Trees communicate over vast distancesTrees talk, communicating often and over vast distances.

Trees Support Each Other

This insight spurred her on to study real forests to see what happens there. Her idea that trees could share information underground was controversial and many of her colleagues thought she was crazy. Difficulties in securing research funding led her to conduct her own experiments and so she planted 240 birch, fir and cedar trees in a Canadian forest. She hypothesized that the birch and firs would be connected in their own underground web, but not the cedar. Undeterred by bears, she covered the seedlings with plastic bags, filling them with various types of carbon gas. She injected a radioactive gas into the birch, and then a stable carbon dioxide gas into the fir.

When she ran a Geiger counter over the trees, she discovered silence from the cedar, and a loud sound of communication between the fir and birch trees who were sharing carbon with each other. She discovered birch sent carbon to fir, especially when it was shaded. Later the opposite happened, when the birch was leafless in the winter, the fir sent over more carbon. Science had always believed that trees competed with each other for carbon, sunlight, water and nutrients.

Simard’s groundbreaking work showed that trees are interdependent and cooperative, in fact they are immersed in deep relationships with each other.

A web of myceliumTrees converse by chemical and hormonal signals via a network of mycelium.

The trees were conversing by chemical and hormonal signals via the mycelium. These messages determined which trees needed certain nutrients. They communicated via carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, hormones and chemicals and then shared these elements, balancing the entire forest.

The web is so dense there can be hundreds of kilometres of mycelium under a single foot step.

The Wisdom of Mother Trees

And the mycelium connects different individuals in the same forest, from the same species and other species. This network works in a similar way to the internet. She discovered that mother trees nurture the younger trees and that a single mother tree can be connected to hundreds of other trees. Trees talk, and through these conversations they increase the resilience of the whole community. It’s a magical community of trees all supporting each other.

Suzanne’s research has important environmental implications for the destruction of our forests. She says that when mother trees are injured or dying, they send their wisdom onto the next generation, but they can’t do this is if they are all wiped out at the same time. She hopes that her research will change the way we practice forestry.

Self-healing treesForests have an enormous capacity to self-heal.

You can take out one or two hub trees, but there comes a tipping point, if you take out one too many, the whole system collapses. We are steadily weakening our forests, by clear cutting and planting only one or two species. This is having major environmental impacts. But there is hope. She says forests have an enormous capacity to self-heal.

Four Solutions for Sustainable Forestry

She suggests four simple solutions for more holistic and sustainable forestry that could end the damage caused by clear cutting:

  1. We need to get out into our local forests more.
  2. We must save old growth forests as they are the repositories of genes, mother trees and mycelium networks.
  3. Where we do cut, we must save the ‘legacy’ mother trees and networks so they can pass their wisdom onto the next generation of trees.
  4. We must regenerate our forests with a diversity of species.

As more and more information comes to light about the complex relationships existing between trees, we are better equipped to save our forests and help them thrive. Scientists like Simard are helping us change our perspective so that we work in harmony with nature; something that could dramatically alter the trajectory of environmental disaster and bring harmonious outcomes for both humans and trees.

Trees can talk to each other – Suzanne Simard

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Azriel ReShel

Writer, Editor, Yoga Teacher & Healing Facilitator

 

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27 Responses to Trees Talk to Each Other in a Language We Can Learn

  1. This article straddles the mystic and scientific. The mystic shows a reverence for Creation, which is beyond our literal understanding, but is within the realm of our intuitive understanding. The scientific relates to the evidence, which we have gathered by routing around in the world around us and trying to decipher, what patterns and natural mechanisms this evidence can reveal to us about our environment. I don’t know why Ms. Simard uses anthropomorphism in her explanations of forests and trees. Maybe she thinks, that this makes a simpler, more digestible presentation. To me, this reminds me of “Disney” films, where they tell us what the animals are thinking. I hope, that she doesn’t use this language with big forestry companies. Maybe, this a cultural thing or maybe, I’m just an old curmudgeon. I certainly appreciate her work towards conserving forests.

  2. For people who leave unkind and even cruel remarks to a person who is genuinely trying to communicate her discovery and ideas, shame on you. Please find another way to vent your anger. Feel free to discuss or even argue, but inane comments make you appear the uneducated and just plain rude.

  3. This made me cry a little. I love trees, ever since seeing The Wizard of Oz when I was about 8 years old. I will always look at trees more personally. Thank you.
    Why not think symbolically or metaphorically instead of definitionally or scientifically?

  4. This is a very unfortunate article. There are facts here, but the use of anthropomorphising words like “conversing” and “wisdom” obscures the science and, as is evident in the comments, confirms people’s suspicions that this is just foolishness.

    There is a good deal of evidence that trees do communicate, but “conversing” implies a social exchange of ideas that is, at best, not justified by the facts presented. As for “sharing wisdom”, it’s just such a vague term, hardly scientific.

    An explanation of the mechanism for sharing carbon would have been welcome, as well. “Via the mycelium” is not informative.

  5. Sad thing to read how many people’s reactions reflect the sole attitude that is destroying the forests, and therewith the world: pure materialism disconnected from respect for life, and therefrom pure and ugly GREED.
    The World deserves better…

  6. On second thought, this make absolutely no sense. I redact my previous comments and bid you, Suzanne, to go back to the fundamental elementary schooling’s to relearn botany.

  7. Brilliant, so timely and passionate! Thank you so much Suzanne for your research. Yes time to cooperate and deeply respect these standing elders. Our wellness is exquisitely linked with theirs!

  8. Totally believable re Trees talking, sharing..I also add that each specie has their Devas, i.e. Elemental (nature SPIRITS) to guide..I am a Starseeds, based in Malaysia and trying to get communities to reforest.

  9. It’s interesting that many indigenous cultures called trees “standing people” . As I have aged I realize that we humans are primarily motivated by our hormones n chemicals. The exchange of these subtle energies are the primary cause of our actions in life. I am so deeply moved that female scientists are finally able to be heard and I hope and pray these interconnections between earths species will be comprehended before we have committed so much mass species genocide that our mother planet won’t turn against us as though we’ve become a destructive virus. In the same way that plants recalibrate their chemicals to repel killing virus and bacteria – humanities inability to respect and hold sacred our plant kingdom has earned us an extremely questionable future. I find it it difficult not to lay blame at the feet of the arrogant males of our species, however I realize that blame is pointless and our trajectory is always always determined by our exchanges of subtle hormonal n chemical communications. Thanks deeply for doing this powerful work!!!!

  10. I hope that you all are just joking, and know that this is bogus. Trees compete with each other over nutrients, and the most limiting factor: sunlight. Timber harvesting opens up the canopy allowing new trees to grow. Trees do not share! Not carbon, Wisdom, or nutrients. Trees take whatever they can get and the loser trees die. Clear cutting is a sustainable harvest method that will result in a more diverse forest than old growth stands if properly applied. Plantations are a great way to reforest abandoned farmland and mine sites, but clear cut forests will regenerate naturally, from seeds or from shoots originating from the stumps and roots of cut trees.

    • I hope you are joking!
      Let me guess, You don’t believe in climate science either?
      Trees can compete AND still share resources…
      Clear cutting is NOT sustainable. Although some areas may be planted, seeded or naturally regenerated, the effect on the environment can be extremely destructive. The act of clear cutting is not only damaging to the structure and function of the forest, but in particularly erosion-prone areas the loss of root structures significantly affects water quality, and leads to the loss and fragmentation of nutrient rich soil, creating a lack of regenerative biomass and reduces primary growth. It is the most devastating and most cost-effective means known to harvest high yields of timber rapidly.

      • Clear cutting is the least sustainable form of forestry! In Denmark this practice is now being abandoned.

        • I believe her.trees talk to humans too. They love humans and they are here to serve us, most humans can’t hear them because they are not in alignment with who they truly are. The Nature of Humans is Nature itself.

  11. Forests all around Australia are being targeted at a rate of several football fields per day for clear felling.
    Many mother trees being lost
    Many people fighting for them
    Thank you for a great article

  12. I have known this intuitively for years. My experience in the hardwood forests of Minnesota taught me much as a child.

  13. Reminds me of the book “The Secret Life of Trees” I forget the author, but he’s German and I lived the book so much

  14. Although I havnt a clue of the science.It seems to me its something that was thaught to me when I was a child.Prehaps older generations of Irish people understood this in a more simple forn

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