The Wood Wide Web… How Trees Talk, Feel and Communicate

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

Trees suckle their children” is something German Forester Peter Wohlebben likes to say. He describes old trees that nurture younger trees and have connections with most other trees in a forest as mother trees. He and Suzanne Simard, a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia, star is a new documentary film called Intelligent Trees. The film, along with his bestselling book The Hidden Life of Trees and her TED Talks and radio interviews spread the word about the amazing network of tree communities and communication called the Wood Wide Web.

The language Wohlleben and Simard use has its scientific base, but he in particular uses language of human experience so people understand and connect emotionally with the trees and forest. He was a forester in Germany who is changing the way people experience forests and work with them. He says trees “think” and “feel” in ways that are in many ways similar to human thought and feeling. He knows that trees have families with parents and children that live healthier lives in community. He changed the way forests are managed for cut wood with selective cutting, using horses instead of heavy machinery and no chemicals. He has helped create protected old forests in his country. Simard was one of the scientists who discovered the web of root connections in a forest. She describes these networks as similar to human neurological and social systems and that groups of trees are like human families. She helped discover the symbiotic network of roots and fungus in the mycorrhiza (myco=fungus and rrhiza=root) network where tree roots exchange sugars for water and soil nutrients from the fungus.

We think we know trees by their trunks, branches and leaves. But is it the amazing super highway underground network of roots and fungus that shows the intelligence and connection of trees within a forest. A mother tree has the most connections with up to hundreds of other trees. Trees send nutrients to other trees so they can thrive, sending more to stressed or weak trees if needed. At times a mother tree is selective and only sends nutrients to trees that are living in favorable conditions so they will thrive. If a tree is being attacked by insects, it will produce chemicals through its own body to stop the insects, and also send chemical warnings to other nearby trees through the mycorrhizal network so they to can ward off the insects. Many old tree stumps in the forest are kept alive for many years by other trees that send nutrients to the stump. The stumps cannot produce chlorophyll because they have no leaves. They are kept alive by their family and friend trees. Wohlebben and Simard suggest that there is wisdom being shared by old trees and tree stumps — wisdom that trees and we can learn from, that is shared in the Wood Wide Web that sustains and nourishes the families and communities of trees.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader.

Visit her blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or website: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Call 314 504-4266.