the hidden life of trees by colin

The Hidden Life Of Trees


    Trees are all around us, they keep our environment healthy, they make the oxygen we breathe and they provide a home for thousands, perhaps even millions of different organisms, but we often mistake them for inanimate, almost mechanical objects, nonliving pillars that seem to pop up everywhere they can. I’d like to make it clear that such an assumption is completely inaccurate.

    Trees, along with all other plants possess nearly identical electrochemical sensory organs (nerves) as we humans, and have nearly the same reactions to external stimuli as demonstrated by this study. We simply don’t notice it most of the time because with trees, the speed at which electrical signals travel is one third of an inch per minute. They can not only feel pain, but can also do many other insane things that no other species on the planet can come close to. For instance, they can detect not only if an insect is attacking them, but also identify the type of insect based on the saliva it leaves behind, but it doesn’t stop there. Most all trees can release specific pheromones designed to attract the natural predator of the attacking insect. Pretty crazy right?

    Certain species of trees, particularly oaks and beeches, which rely on beechnuts and acorns for reproduction often come under attack from hungry deer, bees and wild boar. According to Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and author of The Hidden Life Of Trees, they have adapted to this issue by changing the time of year that they produce their seeds/nuts. There is no evidence that the trees do this with any particular motivation other than procreation, but their adaptations have had a noticeable impact on the populations of deer and wild boar. One might even call it nature’s “population control.”

    Some species of tree do not take hours, but minutes to respond to a threat. Umbrella thorn acacia trees in Africa for example, when being consumed by hungry giraffes, release non-toxic, however extremely bitter and all around nasty tannins into their leaves, causing the herbivores to not only stop consuming that particular tree, but any tree within a hundred yards or so of it. Tannins are also used by most native trees here in Washington as well, they are highly toxic if not lethal to insects and make up another layer of a tree’s defenses against invasion.

    Trees are objectively remarkable life forms, they may not walk or talk or socialize in the same way that we humans do, but they are capable of incredible things, their importance to our environment cannot be overstated, they are what literally keeps us alive, and we could learn, and are learning a lot from them.

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