Book Review: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

‘The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate’ by Peter Wohlleben

This book has been a top seller on many book lists, including the New York Times. It’s wonderful this type of book is that popular! The book presents scientific research and observations by Wohlleben himself of trees and forests.

His observations are from his work spent in German forests, where he spent over 20 years working for the forestry commission. Even though his most of his writing in the book is based on these German forests, the research applies to trees and forests across the world.

Topics of the book include the language of trees, how they communicate, how trees live and work together, how trees affect climates, how they reproduce and grow, their relationships with other living things, how fungi live with trees, and much more.

Two of the biggest observations that stood out to me in this book are how trees communicate, and how forests affect weather patterns on a large (continental) and small (microclimate) scale.

Trees communicate with one another through chemicals released in the air and soil. Fungi plays an important communicator role in the soil, although this is not the only role the fungi plays with the trees. Trees simply aren’t healthy without the right soil fungi.

Trees know what species of other trees are near it. If a tree is of its same species, and especially if it is it’s own child or parent, it will go as far as to feed the neighboring tree sugars to ensure its survival.

What can we take away from this? Increase the fungal network of the soil in your own garden. It’s a good start to stop using lawn chemicals and create mulch rings around your trees. The next step, plant some native plants around the bases of your trees and add organic matter.

About the time I was reading this book, the media began covering the potential of redwood forests along the west coast being opened for logging. In the book, Wohlleben writes how forests along coastlines affect weather patterns inland for many many miles. The forests affect the wind, moisture, and temperature.

I imagine if in North America, we lost those forests along the coastlines, the whole country’s weather patterns would be disrupted, especially since weather and the jet stream moves from west to east.

If you love trees, nature, the environment, or science, you’ll probably be blown away by the facts in this book. It’s an easy book to read, but I would recommend reading one or two chapters at a time (of its 36) to be able to digest the information. If you’re at the right type of cocktail party, the book may be a good conversation starter too.

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