unsung heroes of history

“Couchpotato,” vegging out”  are terms we commonly use to describe certain human behavior.  Janet Browne used these two expressions to introduce the concept of plant intelligence and German forest manager, Peter Wohlleben.   Wohlleben is a rabble rouser, and agent provocarteur .  Using no botanical names or scientific jargon, Wohlleben communicated with the audience;  straight talking and engaging anecdotes were his method. Wohlleben believes that trees are intelligent beings.  They communicate with each other, protect each other, and support each other without condition.  In the city, street lights affect trees by shining light all night, they prevent the tree from getting a good nights sleep!

two tree stumps

You might think the tree stumps in the photograph above are dead.  Wohlleben stated that these two stumps actually are very much alive.  They might even be 400-500 years old, and still burning sugar without a green leaf.  They are supported by neighboring trees through a sugar solution.  In the forest, trees share nutrition.  When Wohlleben takes people, especially children, on tours of the forest, he asks them to “taste the trees.”

beech seedlings

The beech seedlings pictured above are like a street gang.  They are circling around an oak tree,”mugging” it for the water and nutrients that the oak tree needs to survive.  One way the beech nuts get spread in the forest is through squirrels and birds.  A raven can remember where it has spread 10,000 beech nuts.

Oak Tree with “fear branches”

Why does this oak with short little branches?  According Wohlleben these are called “fear branches,”  This oak is surrounded by beech trees.  The beech trees send out roots under the oak.  The oak in reaction sends out these fear branches.  It’s a panic reaction.

The three oak trees pictured above will drop their leaves.  As Wohlleben, said trees are robots.  They are individuals.  These three trees share the same space, the same water, the same soil and yet they will drop their leaves at different times.  Trees can feel the seasons, the length of the day and the temperature.

A tree is like an elephant.  It produces and it consumes.  How does a tree go to the restroom?  Walking through the forest is like walking through tree toilet paper.”  – Wohlleben   Leaves are the trees vehicles for getting rid of waste.

Peter Wohlleben

Biggest surprise:  Prune trees in July and August.  No one could believe what Wohlleben was saying.  Pruning trees in winter, which is what we have been taught, takes the tree 4 or 5 months to heal.  Healing quickly is better for the tree, therefore, the prime time to prune a tree is during the summer.
Wohlleben was the guest speaker at the New York Botanical Garden Humanities Symposium on Plant Intelligence.  Due to the snow storm on March  21, Stefano Mancuso, a leading authority in the field of plant neurobiology was unable to attend.  Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the history of science at Harvard was the moderator.  Wolhlleben, left us with these words, “We cannot destroy nature.  We can destroy our environment.”












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