The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World

This revealing investigation (288 pages) was published in 09-13-2016 of 09-13-2016 by Greystone Books. The book takes you to into the forest. David read The Hidden Life of Trees and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

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The Hidden Life of Trees

What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World

Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator)

It’s not an overstatement to say that reading this book will change everything you think you know about trees. It’s also no surprise this book has sold about three million copies worldwide: It’s intelligent, engaging, and imbued with empathy.

Author Peter Wohlleben uses his first-hand experience as a forest caretaker to convince us puny humans to see trees as a living, breathing, collaborative community of organisms that help each other — and all of us. He is trying with everything he can — and by translating science into terms the rest of us will understand — to raise the empathy of humans to trees.

He does this, in no small part, by anthropomorphizing the things trees do. In his world, trees have intelligence, memory, and are conscious of their environment. He explains how trees can smell, how they register pain, how they raise their young, and even how they can scream.

Unsurprisingly, there has been some pushback from scientists who take issue with the idea that trees are like humans. ‘Even in the forest,’ they say, ‘we want facts instead of fairy tales.’ But that hasn’t stopped the author’s rapid rise, nor should it prevent you from reading this wonderful book.

This is a compelling, fast read that will open up a whole new world of appreciation for the three trillion quiet giants, tender saplings, fruit orchards, fragrant firs, and leafy shade trees with whom we share the planet. Prepare for your next walk in the woods to be an entirely different experience — and maybe hug a tree.

The thing that surprised me most is how social trees are. I stumbled over an old stump one day and saw that it was still living although it was 400 or 500 years old, without any green leaf. Every living being needs nutrition. The only explanation was that it was supported by the neighbor trees via the roots with a sugar solution. As a forester, I learned that trees are competitors that struggle against each other, for light, for space, and there I saw that it’s just vice versa. Trees are very interested in keeping every member of this community alive. — Peter Wohlleben

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