The Hidden Life of Trees: A Book Review

Hilda Guerrero, Librarian, Science, Technology, & Patents Department ,
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From a Secret World book cover

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From a Secret World, which you can reserve through Library To-Go or e-media platforms Libby and Overdrive, tells us of the struggles trees must endure quietly from seedling to their inevitable dying “breath.”

The phrase “ hidden life” may conjure up images of midnight trysts, embezzlement, and disguises. Trees would be last on the list of things that we believe would have hidden lives but strap in and find out why trees are the stars of many dramas unfolding in forests, parks, and even in your backyards.

This book reads more like a novella than your regular ol' non-fiction boring science book. You will learn that trees are more of a community than you ever imagined. That fungi rabbit hole you went into three months ago because everyone is talking about psychedelics and microdosing? Welcome back to your obsession with fungi because you will find out how fungi help trees relay messages to each other and even aid in exchanging nutrients. But let’s not get too excited about fungi being friends to trees because some are more foe than friend. These fungi are capable of sucking the life out of trees when given the opportunity; you will have to read the book to find out the particulars of this relationship between trees and fungi. You will also learn that trees are a little scrappy—did you know that there are trees whose branches whip the branches of competing trees when the wind blows, resulting in the other trees losing branches? Imagine the conversations going on between trees:

"Hey, stay out of my light, or you can catch these hands - errr- branches…"
"Try me! I’ll choke your roots!"

Yes, trees can indeed be very ruthless when it comes to competition for precious sunlight. All of this may be happening as you take a rest under the shade of a seemingly quiet tree in the forest. Why the forest and not the park? This is a tough truth to tell you, but trees planted in parks, backyards, on sidewalks, or any other area where the trees did not naturally grow are usually very isolated and lonely. They never get the benefits of living in a community and can fall victim to attacks from insects or plagues because they cannot tap into the underground web of communication. These trees are living a different drama than their forest counterparts. Sometimes their dramas include having city workers cut their roots because they got too close to a water pipe. How sad is that? Let’s not get too caught up in the sadness that is city slicker trees, and focus more on the fact that we can always be more environmentally responsible and conserve natural forests.

Book cover for The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate
Wohlleben, Peter

Learn more about the hidden life of trees by checking out the book, and perhaps you will shout to the heavens the wonders of trees much as I have.