Most of us rely on trees every day, in the form of paper, wood, or clean air, but have you ever wondered if trees have feelings? In “The Hidden Life of Trees,” author and forester Peter Wohlleben reveals some secrets of the forest world, with quirky stories and fun facts. He personifies the behaviours and characteristics of various tree species, evoking emotional connections that make these plants easily relatable. Written through the lens of a forester in Germany, the discoveries in this book are applicable to trees, forests, and people worldwide.
While reading, I paused many times to share what I’d just learned with the lucky listeners around me (including a few cab drivers). The interesting insights into the inner workings of trees have had a profound impact on the way I interact with trees – in all their forms.
It is abundantly clear: trees are not objects, but immensely intricate living beings forming ecosystems. Their root systems create vast underground communication networks as part of the “wood wide web”. Symbiotic relationships are fostered everywhere; tree agreements with fungi are mutually beneficial, where the goods are information (about nutrient location, potential threats) and the currency is sugar.
Trees are contributing members of communities, providing support to their families by sharing nutrients to young and sick, and even keep old tree stumps alive for centuries after being felled. Communication amongst trees is also made possible with scents: warning gasses are given off to alarm their neighbours of predators.
This book is a nice reminder to slow down to tree-pace, especially when living in the city, and to respect the urban forest around us. City trees – the “street kids,” as Peter Wohlleben calls them – must endure extra stressors from pollution and soil compaction, and do not have the support and shelter of their tree companions as they would in natural forests. This highlights the importance of protecting the precious existing forests on earth and allowing organic growth.
“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with larger machines.”
Reading this book has permanently altered my perception of trees. Never will I look at a piece of toilet paper the same way (bamboo is an alternative!). I have gained gratitude, appreciation, and a glimpse of understanding the magical world of ancient, giant beings.
I highly recommend this book to every human on earth!
Book review by Catharina Sobotta