I was given The Hidden Life of Trees as a Christmas gift from a friend. She and I along with another close friend experienced the breathtaking giants of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park back in November. Although Darwin and I had been there before these two friends had never been, so it was wonderful to see their awe and delight when we walked through the park among the giant trees that resided there. We all felt an energy in the air, that life and conversation was happening around us but not exactly from the people visiting the park. The Hidden Life of Trees seems to confirm our feelings there is so much more to trees then leaves and bark.
The book is written by Peter Wohlleben a forester for over twenty years, author, and simply put, an extreme tree hugger. Over the course of three hundred pages, Wohlleben describes the life cycle of a tree, its inner struggles and outer battles in such a way that the reader is able to learn from him, but is not bored to death. You may at first be thinking, “What can be exciting about a tree?” and Wohlleben reveals exactly that. At first, I must admit I was a bit hesitant for fear of being overtaken by big words and textbook style writing but this was not the case. Although Wohlleben does discuss the science behind his book and the studies that prove his narratives, I found myself instead immersed in his writing and eager to turn the page for more.
Throughout the entirety of the book, trees are given human characteristics, which I found helpful in understanding Wohlleben’s ideas, scientific studies and the facts he presents on various tree affairs. This aspect is what makes this book so interesting in the first place and is basically the whole concept of the book; trees, in fact, are like people too. After reading this book, I have now found myself stopping during hikes and trying to pick out various tree species, trying to witness the going ons of the community I stand in and view the trees as “individuals” standing around me. Using words like “mother” and “sibling” to describe their relationships with one another, Wohlleben gives the reader an understanding of how tree species are related and work with each other helping both the old and the young of their kind stay healthy and prosper.
Every family has friends and of course, those unfortunate foes. Such is the same for trees. Wohlleben discusses how trees are assisted and often encouraged to flourish by various fungi, insects, and animals. As every human often relies on the support from a friend, trees do as well and in some instances would die without such help. A life of a tree is one of a race and survival of the fittest. A once peaceful relationship with another living organism can turn into a fight for light, space, and food. Unfortunately for the tree, they cannot just walk away. They are tied down by their roots, leaving them sometimes doomed to slow death match of whom they are on the losing end being eaten by the inside out.
Although Wohlleben discusses the trials and tribulations of common trees this book is not simply a narrative. It is structured in a way that allows each chapter to build upon the other (later chapters often referring to the previous) and presents information in very layman’s terms. If you have only seen one tree in your entire life, you will surely be able to comprehend the science and further observations rooted in this book. The only thing that I feel should be mentioned before reading would be the fact that some species of both animal and plant mentioned are specific to areas outside the United States. This, however, I found less of an annoyance but more of a challenge to learn and explore more of the world around me.
Wohlleben will guide you to a secret world you have only looked upon before but never really seen. Within the first chapter don’t be surprised to find yourself highlighting topics of interest and researching them further. Wohlleben with his personal research and experiences will answer questions about trees you didn’t know you had. When you again gaze upon a tree, you will take in the struggle and daily dramas that play in around its body. You will recognize what a great marvel it is that one stands before you that you stand among its family. You will realize we are not so unlike the trees.
If you would like to read this book be sure to check out your local library or you can find it online via amazon using the link below along with more of Peter Wohlleben’s books: http://amzn.to/2C0KVoU
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