“I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me”, Clint Eastwood sang in the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon”. Maybe now we know why! It’s because they were too busy talking to one another. According to German forester, Peter Wohlleben, trees communicate with one another. He describes the “woodwide web” of underground arboreal communications in his book “The Hidden Life of Trees”.
“Trees are able to decide, have memories and even different characters. There are perhaps nicer guys and bad guys”.
Mr Wohlleben believes that trees have distinct characteristics. For example, Willows and Poplars are loners, while Beech trees can be aggressive towards other species.
While his theories might seem a little extreme, other research has shown similar results. Suzanne Simard, a Canadian ecologist, has come to the same conclusion after studying trees for 30 years. She concluded that not only do trees of one species communicate and support each other, but different species of trees can do this also. For example birch trees can send carbon to Douglas Fir seedlings when they’re shaded in the summertime. In spring or autumn, the Firs return the favour to the Birches who don’t have any leaves. She talks about “Mother Trees”, sometimes the largest trees in the forest, who support young saplings by sending them the nutrients they need to grow.
Professor Simard’s theories seem more scientific than Peter Wohlleben’s, who appears to attribute “human” characteristics and feelings onto trees.
Unlike Simard and Wohllenben, most of us just take trees for granted. They’re all around us but we don’t dwell about how important trees are to the human race. We admire them in spring and autumn, appreciate their shade in summer.
In the Frameyard, we have two Ginkgo Biloba (Maidenhead Hair) Trees. Truth be told, we don’t pay them much attention, walking past them on our way to the glasshouses or cutting the grass around them. But these trees have a fascinating story. They are considered the oldest species of tree in the world, “living fossils”, the only group of trees that can be dated back to the time of the dinosaurs. They are very long living trees, with the oldest recorded one being 3,500 years old.
Our Ginkgo trees are still young but in China, in the Zhongnan Mountains, thousands of people travel to a Buddhist Temple to see the 1.400 year old Ginkgo tree (pictured above) shedding its leaves in late autumn. If the trees could talk to us or if we could really listen to them, imagine the stories this one would tell.
Images from – http://www.boredpanda.com/1400-old-ginkgo-tree-yellow-leaves-buddhist-temple-china/
Read about Peter Wohlleben – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/12/peter-wohlleben-man-who-believes-trees-talk-to-each-other
Watch Suzanne Simard’s wonderful talk on trees:
Watch a young Clint Eastwood sing “I talk to the trees”, in the movie Paint Your Wagon (1969).