How Trees Communicate

To the casual observer, trees appear to stand independently and without need for contact or communication with other trees.  They seem solitary and totally self contained, unable to converse with their neighbours.

However trees are much more complicated and clever than they look. I have been reading a fascinating book by Peter Wohlleben called "The Hidden Life of Trees" where he reports on some of the findings of recent research.

Here are some of the ways Wohlleben says trees communicate with each other;-

1. Trees share nutrients with each other via their root systems and the intricate fungi network that connects them through the soil.  They support each other when they are sick or diseased, passing on sugars and nutrients to assist their struggling neighbours via these underground pathways. A stump that has been left after a tree has been felled can be kept alive for decades by the trees surrounding it, even though the stump can produce no energy of it's own!

2. Trees can emit chemicals when they are attacked.  For example when an African Acacia gets munched on by a giraffe, it releases chemical smells into the air to warn neighbouring trees of the danger. These adjacent trees immediately start producing toxic chemicals to detract the giraffe from snacking on their leaves.

3. Trees send electrical impulses from their root tips to communicate with other trees in the area. Oak trees do this to warn of insect attacks and once the warning signal is received the trees pump bitter toxic tannins through their bark and leaves that either kills or deters the attacking insects.

Trees are much more complex and amazing than they first appear. We should value them more highly and use timber from them more sparingly.

Intertwined roots




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