When you ask yourself what trees are, what your relationship with them is, and how we impact each other, it is amazing to realize where the search for those answers may lead you. Trees are designed to endure. Maybe they have even learned how to do this. When you think about it, they can’t really go anywhere. They have to stay in one place for a long time and endure whatever nature throws at them. They are just perfectly adapted to stay put in one place. Compared to humans, they are old creatures that we scarcely understand.
Gods on Earth
Trees have a special place in Japan’s cultural heritage. Specific species of trees are believed to house the souls of gods. These include the Ogatama-noki and pine trees. Trees planted in shrines and temples of Japan are considered gods and people coming to the temple talk and pray to them. “Kodama,” translated as “the soul of a tree and its echo,” is a concept enshrined in Shintoism and Buddhist culture. Though it is unseen, it is important to acknowledge its presence.
The neural network of trees
Have you ever heard a tree talk? Well, just because we may not have the sensory perception to acknowledge it, does that mean it does not exist? Some people claim that they can communicate with trees. Ecologist Suzzane Simard sought out the answers to this question around two decades ago and discovered that trees can actually convey information between themselves and with other organisms under the soil, through a “fungi network.”
Ms. Simard found out that trees are capable of communicating their requirements through this latticed fungal network buried deep underneath the soil. They actually form a symbiotic relationship with the fungi. The fungi search for nutrients and water under the soil and deliver it to the tree, and in exchange, the tree provides a sugary by-product for their photosynthesis. This interaction network is not very different from our own nervous system. The trees residing in any area communicate through this network with each other about things like poisonous substances, availability of resources, and even things that make them “happy” and “sad.”
Regardless of what we know, acknowledge, or accept to be true, we have a lot to learn from our friends, the trees residing around us. They are been witnesses to centuries of history and house critical information about our past. Maybe we could learn more about our future from them if we are wise enough to ask the right questions, and know how to ask them.
A Forest Thought — by Robert Browning
“May this grove be a charmed retreat . . .
May northern winds and savage sleet
Leave the good trees untouched, unshorn
A crowning pride of woods unborn:
And gracefully beneath their shield
May the seedling grow..”