The Hidden Life of Trees

Peter Wholleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate; Discoveries from a Secret World (Vancouver: Greystone Books), 2015.

Our copy of this book came from a friend who had read it in a book club and the copy sat around our house for a long time before I even picked it up. Once I did, I almost put it down without having read very much of it because I was quite put off by the excessive anthropomorphism on nearly every page. To say that plants interact with the world in the ways of humans is a stretch. To interpret their reactions to their environment as feelings, or their interactions with each other as communication, it seems to me, is to miss what might be deeper understandings of the working of the wider ecology.

However, one night when I didn't have much else to read, I returned to the book and over the next few days completed reading it. It is clearly full of well-researched and insightful observations about trees and their role in complex ecological systems. There was plenty of new to me information about the interaction between trees and fungi, about connections between trees in close proximity to each other and about the effects of human activities upon the forest ecology.

I wouldn't use the same language to talk about what is going on, but it is clear that I learned quite a bit from reading the book and it is likely information that I would have missed had it been contained in an academic text book. I don't routinely read forestry texts. The popular format and the widespread reading of the book brought it to my attention and I did read it cover to cover.

There are definitely different perspectives, but Wohlleben's is worth consideration.