Book review: The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

By David Rak

The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben.

What They Feel, How They Communicate:  Discoveries from a Secret World.

There is more learning to be had from this beautifully translated book than a review can cover, but it is fascinating for all who realise the absolute value of trees.

The author is a forester in central Europe and forests are his whole world.  He speaks in terms of ‘hundreds’ of birthdays for beeches, birches, oaks, spruces, firs and pines, since some of them do not reach maturity until they are somewhere around five hundred years old.

Many of them are food for the ever-hungry timber mills, often to his regret.  But if left to age they continue to store valuable carbon dioxide, they keep the ground shady and cool and provide a haven for birds, insects and beetles and a sheltered place below for their own seeds to hang onto this earth and germinate in their turn. 

And, says the author, when the ancients are finally cut down their roots remain viable and go on providing a home for mosses and lichens whose role the author is still learning.

Although Wohlleben’s main subject is northern hemisphere varieties, there is much wisdom here for all tree lovers.  We are told of ways to identify the strange markings and/or damage to be found on trunks and in the leaves, and what the consequences are, and sometimes ways in which damage can be reversed.

He postulates that trees have brains, possibly residing somewhere in their roots, and they communicate with each other by electrical signals.  The sceptics will have fun with that.

The author is continually finding out new things about trees, all of it very interesting for tree lovers everywhere.

Has he ever been to Australia to have a look at our eucalypts?

By Lee Stephenson.