Trees aren’t isolated creatures – they live in communities, says Peter Wohlleben, a German forest ranger.
In the deep stillness of a forest in winter, the sound of footsteps on a carpet of leaves died away. Peter Wohlleben had found what he was looking for: a pair of towering beeches. “These trees are friends,” he said, craning his neck to look at the leafless crowns, black against a gray sky. “You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.”
Before moving on to an elderly beech to show how trees, like people, wrinkle as they age, he added, “Sometimes, pairs like this are so interconnected at the roots that when one tree dies, the other one dies, too.”
Contemporary society looks at trees as “organic robots” producing oxygen and wood, but they are far more complex, Wohlleben says. They can count, learn and remember “nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical messages across a fungal network known as the ‘Wood Wide Web’; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.”