These Trees Are Friends
Can it be that even trees are old friends? And perhaps mourn their departed? A German forest ranger thinks so. The appropriately named Peter Wohlleben (“live well” or “farewell”) describes how pairs of ancient trees grow with their limbs apart to share the light, while their roots entwine to share nutrients. Even for years after one tree is cut down, its neighbor may continue shunting nutrients to the stump. For what biological purpose? Do trees really “suckle their young”?
Of course, we may be quick to set aside the musings of German forest worship, and point out that trees can be vicious, as in the strangler fig that consumes and replaces the tree it parasitizes. But just as in the world of animals with recognized nervous systems, trees do exhibit positive relationships. The roots of trees require miles of fungal internet called mycorrhyzae, analogous to the Eywa network in the film Avatar. And trees provide homes to birds and insects that protect and pollinate.
Wolleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees shares some of these mysteries. Not yet released in English, it sounds like a book worth waiting for.