The Man Behind The Hidden Life of Trees


Trees a crowd … Peter Wohlleben and friends. Photograph: Peter Wohlleben

9781771642484The man who thinks trees talk to each other

Beech trees are bullies and willows are loners, says forester Peter Wohlleben, author of a new book claiming that trees have personalities and communicate via a below-ground ‘woodwide web’

Early this year I linked out to a profile of Peter Wohlleben, and that post was remarkably well received. The post about the woodwide web concept more recently, clearly connected conceptually, was also well received, while pointing to the findings of other researchers (if you did not listen to the Radio Lab piece, do yourself a favor and do so). I am happy to link to more about the ideas in this book, and to learn more about the man himself:

Trees have friends, feel loneliness, scream with pain and communicate underground via the “woodwide web”. Some act as parents and good neighbours. Others do more than just throw shade – they’re brutal bullies to rival species. The young ones take risks with their drinking and leaf-dropping then remember the hard lessons from their mistakes. It’s a hard-knock life.

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Reimagining Trees


“When I say, ‘Trees suckle their children,’ everyone knows immediately what I mean.” PETER WOHLLEBEN Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

There is an article in the Saturday Profile section of the New York Times this weekend that catches my attention for reasons made obvious in these pages since 2011. Thousands of posts about community, collaboration and conservation, many of which have dealt with the importance of forests. But it most importantly reminded me of a conversation I had with a couple who visited Xandari Costa Rica last year. We had trekked together in the forest reserve, all the while discussing our mutual interest in the concept of biophilia, which has been covered plenty in these pages.

Among other things I recall from that strolling conversation was each of us sharing experiences from years earlier that had caused us to rethink the simple pleasure of a walk in the woods, to consider “what a walk in the woods does for us.” Of course, the simple pleasure is still there, but understanding biophilia can intensify the pleasure of a walk in the woods. And then, if we take it a step further, or deeper, it then causes us to consider the importance of forest conservation, and our prospective roles with regard to conservation.

Those conversations with guests are essential components of our work, so (shout out to Andrew and Holly included) I recommend this article for reminding me…:

…After the publication in May of Mr. Wohlleben’s book, a surprise hit titled “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World,” the German forest is back in the spotlight. Since it first topped best-seller lists last year, Mr. Wohlleben has been spending more time on the media trail and less on the forest variety, making the case for a popular reimagination of trees, which, he says, contemporary society tends to look at as “organic robots” designed to produce oxygen and wood. Continue reading