In 2012, I moved back home, and I had a trailer moved to my youngest brother’s property. My daddy oversaw the project, and he had my middle brother take the skidder and clear trees so that I could have a backyard. I wanted a small strip of clearance, but my daddy obviously gave more extensive directions to Douglas, my brother. Sophia my second born was 8 years old, and she was a VERY sensitive little girl. She loved nature and animals, so she was very excited about us moving to the boondocks.
That day of the backyard clearing Sophia wanted to go with daddy to watch. When Douglas showed up with the skidder, he made quick work of the massive backyard project. When all the old growth trees were pushed up, Sophia began to weep and to scream. I ran to her because I thought she was hurt. She kept saying over and over, “Mama, the trees are crying. The trees are dying. They are crying, Mama.” She was inconsolable for at least eight hours.
She was adamant the trees were talking to each other, and she definitely believed they were grieving. That was the first day that I actually considered that she might be right. Who are we to know the intricate workings of plant networks and connections to each other?
When I first read an article about forests and tree communication as well as their sharing of nutrients and knowledge, the memory of Sophia’s devastation rushed back to me (“Exploring How and Why Trees ‘Talk’ to Each Other” Toomey). I spent several hours this week researching this topic, and I thought since my students also take Biology this year that reading about this networking of roots and fungi would be a good informational text for them. We also have written constructed responses about topic. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/).
The forest lines of communication and defense systems are good reasons to keep several mother trees or oldest growth trees when logging so that nutrients and knowledge can be shared with saplings.
Learning this with my students made me think of Avatar, and how all the trees on Pandora communicated with other plants and animals on the planet. That fictional network is more accurate than I first believed. I would like to leave you with a YouTube video that we used in class this week to help us better understand this phenomena. I spoke with Sophia about it before editing this blog post. Her response was quite simple, “I knew it!”
I leave you with the ecologist who discovered forests communication networks, Suzanne Simard.