Most of us think of trees as objects, but we’re getting it wrong, according to a forester – who claims that not only are trees intelligent, they also communicate.
In an interview with Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Peter Wohlleben says, ‘Trees exchange information… mother trees suckle their children.’
Wohlleben manages a forest in Germany without using heavy machinery or insecticide – and using horses to haul out dead wood.
He says, ‘We know that trees also exchange information. When one tree is attacked by insects, we can measure electrical signals that pass through the bark and into the roots and from there into fungi networks in the soil that alert nearby trees of the danger. The trees pay for this service by supplying the fungi with sugars from their photosynthesis.’
Wohlleben has turned his forest from a loss-making operation into a profitable one – and claims that trees make decisions, and live in families.
He says, ‘Mother trees feed the young tree just enough sugars produced by its own photosynthesis to keep it from dying. Trees in a forest of the same species are connected by the roots, which grow together like a network. Their root tips have highly sensitive brain-like structures that can distinguish whether the root that it encounters in the soil is its own root, the root of another species, or the roots of its own species.’
He claims that trees can even learn and remember experiences – and even, in a primitive way, make decisions.
Wohlleben says, ‘We had a heavy drought here. In subsequent years, the trees that had suffered through the drought consumed less water in the spring so that they had more available for the summer months. Trees make decisions. They can decide things.