21 March 2018 | Reading 4 mins.

The hidden life of trees

Stuart Reigeluth
Founder of REVOLVE

“Trees can’t walk.” (p.186) Once seeds land and catch hold, or when saplings are planted and the trees begin their long journey of gradual growth over the years, decades and centuries, they stay in one place, until they die and decompose and go back to the earth and feed the next generation of trees, or until they are harvested and transported to distant lands to make furniture, products and buildings. Trees can’t just pick up their bags and mobilize their troops, like in the fantastical blockbuster rendition of The Lord of the Rings. Trees are sedentary creatures, once rooted (quite literally) – always rooted.

But even if they can’t walk, they sure can talk, claims German forester, Peter Wohlleben in his unexpected gem of a book The Hidden Life of Trees. Or at least they can talk to each other. Plunging into the magical world of trees – reminiscent at times of the stage for Hermann Hesse’s beautiful Fairy Tales that evoke the mysterious ways of the woods – Wohlleben describes how trees actually communicate amongst themselves: this is not an alphabet language as we know it but rather as almost secret codes based on chemicals, transmitters and scents that travel by air or bugs or via a network of fungi connecting the roots of trees.

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