The Hidden Lives of Trees

Photo Credit: Rajmani Sinclair

Photo Credit: Rajmani Sinclair

Have you ever considered the possibility that tree are social creatures? In his recently published book - The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World - German forester Peter Wohlleben asserts that trees are indeed social beings. In fact, he asserts that trees can even count, learn, remember, nurse sick neighbors, warn each other of danger, and for unknown reasons, keep ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for 100s of year by feeding them a sugar solution via their root systems. 

In his book, Mr. Wohlleben, uses very human language when describing trees, which makes it very accessible to readers. Since it's release, it sold 100,000s of copies in German, and it has been translated into 19 languages. The English version of the book will be released on September 13, 2016. 

Peter Wohlleben in the forest. Photo Credit: Gordon Welters for The New York Times

Peter Wohlleben in the forest. Photo Credit: Gordon Welters for The New York Times

Peter Wohlleben traces his love for trees back to his childhood, and went on to study forestry in school. In 1987 he began working for the State Forestry Administration in Rhineland-Palatinate. After a few years of working on felling old trees and spraying them with insecticides, Peter felt that it just wasn't right and went back to read what he'd learned in school about the behavior of trees. Upon digging deeper into his study of tree behavior, Wohlleben discovered that trees operate as communal beings rather than individuals in nature. Furthermore, as communal beings, trees shared resources and worked together in networks in order to increase their strength and resistance. 

After working for over a decade to try and change the State Forestry Administration's approach to how they treated the forests, Wohlleben decided to leave his job and emigrate to Sweden. Fate had another idea in mind. All of Wohlleben's efforts had actually caught the attention of the forest's municipal owners, so they approached him with a contract to oversee the forest in place of the State Forestry Administration. Peter took the contract and in the past ten years, he  brought in horses, eliminated insecticides and began experimenting with letting the woods grow wilder. Within two years of these changes, the forest went from loss to profit, in part by eliminating expensive machinery and chemicals.

Through his life experiences, Wohlleben wanted to share his knowledge and appreciation for trees with everyone. Thus, he set out to write the book The Hidden Life of Trees, which so far has been a great success with German audiences and will soon be available for purchase in English. 

Author: Rajmani Sinclair