The Hidden Life of Trees

Talking Trees - “The Hidden Life of Trees - What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World”

Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth’s greatest natural resources. They absorb odors and pollutant gases, reduce noise and water pollution, prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade for our cities, and help make our landscapes beautiful. Studies and research are pointing to the fact now that there’s much more to trees that what first meets the eye. 

In a new international bestseller titled “The Hidden Life of Trees - What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World”, forester and author Peter Wohlleben draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families; tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of danger. With a newfound understanding of the rich and complex life of trees, we gain a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of these incredible gentle giants.

Wohlleben chronicles what his own 20 years of experience in managing a forest in the Eifel mountains in Germany has taught him about the extraordinary language of trees and how scientists and researchers around the world today have come to realize “the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live.” 

Through the book we learn about ways in which trees can actually communicate with each other. When confronted with a parasite, for example, some trees will emit chemicals that give their leaves a bitter flavour that is unpleasant to the parasite. Nearby trees then release a scent compound specifically formulated for the task at hand. In this way, communities of trees work together to defend themselves against a common threat. 

The book also contemplates what makes strong human communities and societies. “Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what.”

So next time you’re walking quietly through the forests around Loon Lake, consider that a forest is not merely a collection of fully independent, inanimate objects, but that those very trees that you’re looking at are as vibrantly alive as all of us. 

“The Hidden Life of Trees - What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World”, $20.43,

Still interested in how tree communicate? Watch Suzanne Simard's TED talk below.

How Trees Talk to Each Other