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Peter Wohlleben’s latest book has everyone talking about the secret lives of trees. We bring you some quirky and lesser-known facts

The inner world

It looks like James Cameron definitely knew a thing or two about trees when he made his Academy award-winning sci-fi movie, Avatar (remember The Tree of Souls?). At least that’s what author Peter Wohlleben believes. The writer and forester came out with an English translation of his book, The Hidden Life of Trees, last month (the German version came out last year). The book talks about the nexus between trees and how they network with each other, via fungi. “The ‘wood-wide-web’ is a fungi-network that transports news from one tree to another to warn, for example, of an ongoing insect attack so each tree may prepare in advance,” explains the Germany-based 52-year-old. This system helps them in not only transferring news, but also food (in the form of sugar) to weaker trees. The helpful fungus gets paid for his role with one third of the trees’ photosynthesis production. “That’s really expensive internet,” quips Wohlleben.
He feels that it is important to understand that trees are not bio-robots. “They are individuals with feelings, speech, family bands and a rich social life,” he says. While we speculate about the tree of few words, Groot from Marvel Comics, Wohlleben points out that it’s easier for a ‘social’ tree to survive “because its stump is supported for centuries with sugar being pumped over via the roots,” while on the other hand ‘a lone wolf’s’ stump will be rotten after a few years.
Published by Penguin Random House. `499. Available on amazon.in.
Details: peter-wohlleben.de

Spruce trees (Asia, Europe, North America) can grow to be very old. The oldest tree in the world was discovered in Sweden in 2004 and is nearly 10,000 years old

Spruce trees (Asia, Europe, North America) can grow to be very old. The oldest tree in the world was discovered in Sweden in 2004 and is nearly 10,000 years old

Chennai Trekking Club’s green wing, Ainthinai, is organising a palm seeds sowing drive at Narayanapuram lake today. Carry water and wear comfortable clothes for the event, which starts at 6.30 am. Details: 7299518047

Pradip’s point
Author and former filmmaker, Pradip Krishen, who has
written the introduction to the Indian edition of Wohlleben’s book, says that sal trees are able to sense each other’s presence. “(They) will die of ‘loneliness’ when they are isolated,” he says. What, according to the author of Jungle Trees of Central India (2013), must people keep in mind before planting trees? “That all of them ‘belong’ to particular ecologies, and that we oughtn’t to plant them like ornamental objects without understanding what they need.”

—Simar Bhasin

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