The Truth About Trees

– Posted in: Garden Musings


I have always felt that too few folks take the time to understand the truth about trees. A lot of the time people ignore caring for their trees and just think they’ll be fine growing by themselves. They don’t understand that you must prune trees, make sure they’re getting enough nutrients and tree felling of an ill or overgrown tree may be necessary to keep a collection of trees healthy.

So I was especially delighted when I read and gazed at Saxon’s outstanding photos earlier this week in his post, How to Photograph Trees.

I felt as if Saxon’s post was an early birthday gift to me. Yes, today is my birthday. And if I could ask for one thing from every individual on this earth is that you walk outside, slow down, take some deep breaths, awaken your senses, and spend some time relating to a tree.

You see, since I was a child, I’ve felt a deep bond with trees and intrinsically understood that communing with them helped me to open up to my authentic, wiser self (as I wrote about in this article).

Although I never spoke about it while growing up, I knew in my heart that trees were communicating with me in their own way and that they had a secret language that allowed them to speak with each other as well.

So, recently when I came across the book, The Hidden Life of Trees written by Peter Wohlleben, a long time forester, I grabbed a copy of it.

From the beginning, the author whetted my appetite with phrases like this: “When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”

Not only did this gem of a book validate what I intrinsically knew, but it also catapulted my understanding and appreciation of their extraordinary sensitivity, their strong community bonds and support of each other, and their sheer strength and elegance.


Here are some key takeaway concepts:

1.Trees need to communicate. Electrical impulses that pass through the roots of trees (and move at a very slow rate of 1/3 of an inch per second) are one of the ways of communicating.

An example: “If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they smell it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals.”

2. Trees are incredibly social. In a forest, they care for each other “sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding its sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive.”

3. Trees communicate and share food because they need each the extent that they even nurse and nourish sick individuals until they recover.

“It takes a forest to create a micro-climate suitable for tree growth and sustenance. So it’s not surprising that isolated trees have far shorter lives than those living connected together in forests.”

“It appears that nutrient exchanges and helping neighbors in times of need is the rule, and this leads to the conclusion that forests are superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies.”

4. When trees are weakened or are loners (not part of a community), it appears that they lose their conversational skills and are no longer able to defend themselves.

As the author writes: “Otherwise, it’s difficult to explain why insect pests specifically seek out trees whose health is already compromised.”

“A tree’s silence could be because of a serious illness or, perhaps, the loss of its fungal network, which would leave the tree completely cut off from the latest news. The tree no longer registers approaching disaster, and the doors are open for the caterpillar and beetle buffet. The loners I just mentioned are similarly susceptible–they might look healthy, but they have no idea what is going on around them.”

5. The rate of photosynthesis is the same for all trees. Students at the Institute for Environmental Research at RWTH Aachen discovered that “trees in undisturbed beech forests synchronize their performance so that they are all equally successful….even though each beech tree grows in a unique location, and conditions can vary greatly in just a few yards.”

6. It takes a community for trees to be strong. “Trees well-being depends on their community, and when the supposedly feeble trees disappear, the others lose as well. When that happens, the forest is no longer a single closed unit. Hot sun and swirling winds can now penetrate to the forest floor and disrupt the moist, cool climate. Even strong trees get sick a lot over the course of their lives. When this happens, they depend on their weaker neighbors for support. If they are no longer there, then all it takes is what would once have been a harmless insect attack to seal the fate even of giants.”

So the next time you take a walk in a forest, woodland, or grove of trees, be quiet and listen closely…and perhaps you will hear the trees communicating with each other!

Please note: Everything in quotes are words written by the author taken from his book, The Hidden Life of Trees

Also, you only have a few more weeks to take advantage of my 1000 FREE Book and Course Giveaway. We are almost sold out!! To take advantage of receiving a free copy of my book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening and my 3 part online course, click on HERE.


Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
10 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Laura Munoz November 1, 2016, 4:29 pm

Wow, your post almost made me cry. I forwarded it to three others. when i moved to my house a 1-1/2 years ago, the first thing I did was to hire an arborist to look at the condition of the trees, which are all about 80+ y/o. We cut a few bad limbs but all trees were left in place. I’m so very glad I did not cut down the ancient crape myrtle in my yard as suggested by the arborist. The tree is about 40′ tall. It’s not diseased, but the arborist suggested I cut it down to gain more light.

Shirley November 11, 2016, 7:30 am

Is it too late tp get the book and the online course?

Fran Sorin November 17, 2016, 5:25 am

No Shirley. The book giveaway and course is running until the end of this month. Fran

Fran Sorin November 17, 2016, 5:31 am


How wise of you to follow your instincts, rather than listening to the arborist. I totally agree with your approach and believe that trees are living things that we can develop deep relationships with, rather than being perceived solely as design elements. And lucky you for moving to a property with 80+ year old trees. Thanks for your lovely note. Fran

Creative By Design Landscaping November 22, 2016, 1:00 pm

That was a very interesting read. And alot about trees i didnt know.
I look forward to your future articles. Thankyou

Fran Sorin December 1, 2016, 5:26 am

Creative by Design- Am glad you found the article useful. Trees are amazing, powerful beings. We just need to slow down to experience their awesomeness. Have a beautiful holiday season. Fran

GrassChopper landscaping - Edmontron, Canada February 19, 2017, 10:19 am

Most folks have no idea about the social/community aspect of trees and forests. Thanks for sharing Fran 🙂

Fran Sorin March 10, 2017, 12:32 am

With pleasure! Have a great spring!

Perfect Plants January 17, 2018, 1:33 pm

we 1000% agree that trees are living, breathing organisms that heal, share, love, and provide happiness and fresh air to the world. we wouldn’t be a world without trees and trees wouldn’t be without people to care for them like you and I. so happy (belated) birthday to you and all the trees in the world. thanks for sharing 🙂

Best pole saw January 21, 2019, 6:13 am

As an owner of the book you mentioned “The hidden life of trees”, I couldn’t but appreciate your post. Both the book and your article give gems of insight and knowledge.

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