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The Top Five Facts About How Amazing Trees Are: review of “The Hidden Life of Trees”

Book cover of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

Trees. Trees are amazing. I absolutely love trees. My phone’s photo gallery is just picture after picture of all the trees I see on my runs and walks around my neighbourhood. Yes, I have favourites, but don’t tell any of the trees that.

If you are on the fence about how amazing trees are, let me show you this beauty.


Still not convinced?

BAM! This Red Gum is OFF THE CHARTS.

We don’t do enough for our environment. That goes without saying. However, the little work that we do to try and save our environment, and more specifically, can often times go against what the trees and the flora need. Peter Wohlleben’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees, is a fascinating study of trees and I feel even more in awe of these beautiful natural wonders. Wohlleben explains the intricate life of trees with such respect and kindness, that it is hard not to fall in love with trees all over again. Rather than try to summarise all the wonderful facts about trees, I have decided to list the top five facts about trees from Wohlleben’s book.

Here is another picture of some amazing trees as well as a pied shag on a branch. Not included in the picture is the beautiful sounds of the striped marsh frogs singing in the reeds.

Fact 1: Trees Help Other Trees Grow

Trees that grow in wild forests, as apposed to those in cultivated ones, are more than just a community. They are a family. Trees, especially those that are older and well established will, help younger and injured trees grow by sharing resources through their root systems. When trees suffer significant damage, neighbouring trees will donate their sugar to the other trees to help them grow and repair. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Fact 2: Trees (and plants in general) Can Register Light

Trees and plants in general know when it is Spring or the dead of Winter because they can register how much light they get in a day. With this, they are able to know when to drop leaves if they are deciduous, and also when to sprout flowers and new growth. They know when to store resources and when to hibernate. Your house plants will also register light too, but because we use a lot of artificial lights – think the lights in our house – the plants can often times be tricked into thinking it is always Spring/Summer. That is why, indoor plants can still have growth periods in Winter.

Fact 3: Trees Planted in Man-made Forests are Loners

This is where our attempts at helping the trees and our forests is actually not very helpful. Of course any trees are good trees, but we really really need to be protecting wild forests. Wild forests are a very sensitive ecosystem – with the bugs, fungi and lichen, and tree and plant types. When trees a cultivated elsewhere and then planted in a forest, they are essentially loners. They don’t have a sense of community like what is described in fact one. On the contrary, they don’t share resources with other trees, they don’t know how to grow and support each other. While it looks like a forest, it isn’t actually a forest. That is why we need to protect wild forests as much as possible. Homogeneous forests in particular, are very bad.

Fact 4: Trees Can Migrate, Slowly

As I talked about is fact 2, trees are pretty smart. They can register light, as well as temperature to help them prepare for growth and hibernation periods. And when things can get too hot or cold, trees can migrate. Obviously they don’t pick up their roots and take a walk – although that would be pretty amazing – they use the help of different bugs, insects, and animals to help transport their seeds further north or south, depending on their climate needs. This is a slow process though. If the climate changes too quickly, the trees aren’t able to move fast enough and bigger problems can arise.

Fact 5: Let Fallen Trees Lie

Especially in more urban areas or parks and nature strips, local government bodies will remove any tree debris. This includes fallen branches, leaves, twigs, and whole trees. Seeing broken trees and branches doesn’t always look the most aesthetically pleasing, however, by removing them we remove vital nutrient resources for the trees that are left behind. In wild forests, when a tree falls on the ground it rots. Bugs and insects move in. Fungi and lichen take hold, and slowly but surely, it will decay into the ground providing everyone tall and small some food. When we remove trees and debris, we take this away from the local tree communities. So if you want to follow Wohlleben’s advice, let fallen trees lie.

Here are some wattle trees before you go.

I am constantly in awe of our beautiful environment. We do need to do so much more to protect our beautiful green friends. Wohlleben asks us to think of trees as fellow living organisms, subjects rather than objects, for us to use and abuse whenever we see fit. Tell me, when was the last time you hugged a tree. As always, share the reading love.

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