Wood Wide Web. How Trees Talk to Each Other and you, if you wish
When we look at a dense forest or a grove of trees, the interconnectedness of these natural wonders can sometimes escape us. Trees are often thought of as solitary beings, standing tall, silent and strong on their own. We couldn’t be more wrong. With eyes see and ears to hear, we can get a glimpse of their secret life and the richness of their complex interactions with each other. And, with an open mind and heart, we can join their conversations.
Recent research has revealed that trees communicate with each other in a variety of ways.
One of the most fascinating ways trees communicate is through scent or, in more sciency words – the release of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
This discovery is not new. In his book, “The Hidden Lives of Trees”, Peter Wohlleben mentions an observation made by scientists four decades ago.
“In the African savannah, the giraffes were feeding on umbrella thorn acacias, and the trees didn’t like this one bit. It took the acacias mere minutes to start pumping toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of the large herbivores. The giraffes got the message and moved on to other trees in the vicinity. But did they move on to trees close by? No, for the time being, they walked right by a few trees and resumed their meal only when they had moved about 100 yards away. The reason for this behavior is astonishing. The acacia trees that were being eaten gave off a warning gas (specifically, ethylene) that signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that a crisis was at hand. Right away, all the forewarned trees also pumped toxins into their leaves to prepare themselves. The giraffes were wise to this game and therefore moved far- ther away to a part of the savannah where they could find trees that were oblivious to what was going on.”
And, of course, not all conversations are about dangers. Many are feel-good messages and come and visit invitations for passing bees and insects as tree blossoms, for example. These we get.
Trees don’t rely only on scent, because this would mean they could have conversations only on windy days.
Trees smart communication: Wood Wide Web
Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has discovered that they also warn each other using chemical signals sent through the fungal networks around their root tips, which operate regardless of the weather.
These networks can be far more extensive than the visible parts of a forest. Through symbiotic relationships with fungi, tree roots operate like fiber-optic Internet cables, creating a system called the “wood wide web.”
Fungi absorb minerals from the soil and deliver them to the trees’ roots, while in exchange, receiving the carbon that the trees produce through photosynthesis. Fungi can send signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers.
“Surprisingly, news bulletins are sent via the roots not only by means of chemical compounds but also by means of electrical impulses that travel at the speed of a third of an inch per second.”
In the symbiotic community of the plants, not only trees but also shrubs, grasses, all plant species exchange information.
Along with colleagues from Bristol and Florence, Dr. Monica Gagliano from the University of Western Australia started capturing sounds coming from the trees’ roots. Their measuring apparatus was registering roots crackling quietly at a frequency of 220 hertz. They went into the laboratory and played the sounds from the forest to a couple of grain seedlings.
Whenever the seedlings’ roots were exposed to the 220 hertz, they oriented their tips in that direction. That means the grasses were registering this frequency, so it makes sense to say they “heard” it.
How you can listen and talk to a tree
You may already enjoy your walks through forests and listening to the branches creaking and leaves rustling. But there are ways of going even deeper and really connecting to trees.
Here are some ideas:
Find a quiet and secluded spot in nature where you can be alone with trees.
Choose a tree that speaks to you and feels inviting. Some trees are more talkative than others, so keep trying if the first one is unwilling to talk. J
Take a few deep breaths and relax your body and mind.
Begin your meditation practice, focusing on the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that arise.
Allow yourself to be present with the tree, observing its form, energy, and consciousness.
Take your time and listen to what the tree has to teach you; ask questions, listen again.
Try this guided meditationto connect with plant/ tree spirits
This meditation will help you enter a peaceful and relaxing state of mind. Let yourself be guided by the voice of Goura and the Music of the Plants in this interspecies meditation experience.
Use Ginkgo or Bamboo M to convert the energy of plants into music. All you have to do is take the device with you for a walk in a forest or park.
Choose a tree or plant that feels inviting. Attach one of the probes to a leaf and insert the other by a small metal rod close to the roots of the plant. Because plants themselves are complex entities, their internal electrical pulsations are at the same time strong and subtle, and your device will capture and translate both into musical sounds. You can record the music and play it while you work or meditate.
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