The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World 
by Peter Wohlleben

This week’s New Title Tuesday recommendation, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World, proves the tree-huggers were right all along.

wohllebenPublishers Summary:  A forester’s fascinating stories, supported by the latest scientific research, reveal the extraordinary world of forests and illustrate how trees communicate and care for each other.

In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Upon hearing an interview with Peter Wohlleben  about the deep family relationships trees form, I started to feel guilty – guilt for the trees I planted without considering the  best interest of the tree, and guilt for the trees I’ve, um, murdered.

In my defense – yeah I admit it – the tree had it coming (to him? her?) for hurling a branch through my roof during a thunderstorm.  OK, maybe it was my fault – or, blame it on the human who planted the tree decades before we bought the house.

But still!  Who knew the potential emotional havoc upon nature caused when we slaughtered the tree?  That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the value of trees.  When I was a preschooler – long before Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree –  an elderly neighbor told me that the two fat maples in my front yard were over 100 years old.  I loved those trees and always had plenty of leaves for autumn art projects.  But, in addition to oxygen, run-off prevention, wood, and shade, we learn that trees possess intelligence!?!

Publishers Weekly review  This fascinating book will intrigue readers who love a walk through the woods. Wohlleben, who worked for the German forestry commission for 20 years and now manages a beech forest in Germany, has gathered research from scientists around the world examining how trees communicate and interact with one another.  They do so using a variety of methods, including the secretion of scents and sound vibrations to warn neighboring plants of potential attacks by insects and hungry herbivores, drought, and other dangers. The book includes a note from forest scientist Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia, whose studies showed that entire forests can be connected by “using chemical signals sent through the fungal networks around their root tips” and led to the term “the wood-wide web.”

 Whether we begin to change the way we manage our national forests or simply taking more care when adding or removing a tree from a lawn, Wohlleben’s book provides the lay-person insight into this very ‘secret’ life of trees.

Beware: after reading this book, you may become a tree-hugger.

Happy Reading, Susan C.

Adults may also enjoy:  The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping by Laura and Guy Waterman

Children may enjoy: The Secret Life of Trees by Chiarra Chivallier


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