‘Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben – Review

When I was given this book as a Christmas gift and read the reviews, I was quite sceptical. “After you have read Wohlleben’s book, a walk in the woods will never be the same again”, one said. Another was, “trees in a forest care for each other”. It did not take me long to realise that both of the these remarks were true and I will never look at trees the same way again.
The author is a life-long woodsman who has tapped the resources of much recent research and explained it in a simple and erudite way. Trees do communicate. An example is the acacia tree in Africa, when it is being eaten by giraffes, emits a chemical which drifts to other trees. They, in turn, immediately produce a toxic chemical which deters further eating by giraffes. Another aspect of communication concerns what happens when a tree is removed from a forest. Traditional forestry thinking says that more, bigger trees will grow but recent research has shown the opposite. Trees will grow bigger and stronger left with their neighbours. And what about a new shoot growing from a felled tree? Is it a new tree or a continuation of the old tree? In Europe, due to burning for charcoal over hundreds of years, new trunks do continue to sprout from “dead” stumps
Peter Wohlleben looks at the life span of trees and identifies that the root system can live for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years and still produce shoots. The oldest tree so found is a spruce found in Sweden which has been carbon dated
to be 9,500 years old. Another surprising fact is the use of fungi as a means of communication and of nutrition. A sharing process occurs between the fungi and the tree over the life span. Trees of the same species share nutrition at the expense of neighbouring trees of different species.
The Hidden Life of Trees continually surprises and reveals fascinating tree facts in a lively and easily read format. It extends our love of wood from such characteristics as grain, colour, density and markings, with which we are all familiar, to a broader, more comprehensive and ultimately more satisfying view of trees. It is highly recommended
Brian Dawson

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