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Can trees talk with one another?

Wow, that's a heavy beginning to start my conversation with you about the tree world, which has an interconnecting network just below our feet through which trees and plants communicate.

The earthy underground world comprises various fungi, known as the mycorrhizal fiber connections, and is known as the wood-wide web network.

This incredible root-systems network can share information about possible threats to one another like disease, droughts, or insect attacks. These tiny root fibers share water and nutrients through this vast system to work with one another and communicate.

The mycorrhizal network relies heavily on the mother trees, also known as hub trees, usually the oldest, tallest, and most vigorous trees with the most significant sunlight in a patch of a dense forest.

Using water and the sun's energy, trees produce sugars and starches, which are their food, in a process known as photosynthesis.

However, because of their exposure to large amounts of sunlight, the hub trees produce more sugars than they need for survival. These excess sugars are stored throughout the tree, including its fibrous root system, and are shared with nearby trees.

This fibrous system is called the mycelium which forms a web of underground roots and interconnecting fungi. In just one rich handful of forest, soils contain more living organisms than all the people who have ever lived on earth.

This specialized web creates the network that allows trees to communicate with one another and is called the soil's mycorrhizal network.

A tree can send chemical signals through its root system to communicate in this network, which then travel through the fungi network and are received by other trees. These chemical codes to other trees may alter their behavior based on the information sent to one another through the complexity of the trees' root hairs.

In essence, these fungi are the means through which trees can communicate with each other and are a world unto their own, just below the earth's crust.

Besides trees using this mycorrhizal network to send warnings of nearby threats, mother trees also use this web to share resources like sugars and nutrients with younger trees that might be shaded from sunlight out in the depths of a dense forest or woodland.

Every day, trees face threats like droughts, insects, fires, diseases, predation from herbivores, and they want to survive if they can.

Trees have evolved to release pheromones upon sensing insect attacks, which warn nearby trees of impending danger and allows them to release their pheromones that repel insects to some degree.

Nature competes for all kinds of resources, whether it's food, light, water, or shelter, but this competition is only a part of the grand picture.

Cooperation and mutual benefits are also the foundation of countless interactions with all aspects of nature, and we should learn from that as a species as well.

From the oceans to the land and the sky above, many interacting networks are in constant motion, and how they tick amazes me as I trek through my own daily life with admiration and respect for all of nature's wonders.

I have always said that trees and plants are unique individuals growing from the soils they live in and reacting to a complex pyramid of factors in how they function and grow.

Within a native oak woodland there are over 300 species of flora and fauna that coexist, and all are fighting for their survival.

The world of trees and herbaceous plants includes a complexity of worms, bugs, lichen, snakes, toads, skunks, coyotes, moths, butterflies, mycorrhizal fungi, and more, with survival of the fittest.

This intricate root system is working 24/7 non-stop and is the trees' information highway aiding nature's survival, and we must respect that to continue the human species.

Trees and plants grow within a symbiosis of this vast network, and we must treat the earth with a more gentle hand than we have done in the past. Re-cycle, re-purpose, re-use, up-cycle, and stop using the harmful chemicals being applied to the soil daily, for we are destroying the web just below our feet that interconnects life as we know it.

If you want to read the book "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, she discusses what we have been doing to the earth in great detail and it is an excellent read from some 60 years ago.

Desertification is increasing throughout the globe, and vast areas are losing precious topsoils, which is the lifeline in agriculture from continent to continent.

Just look back into 1930, when middle America suffered from drought and the denuding of land of vegetation, and the devastating dust bowl happened. History reminds us to learn from our past mistakes in how we care for the soils that sustain us.

There are other approaches to understand if we as a species are to carry on, for there are just so many natural resources to call up and help us sustain some form of existence.

So, with an understanding and knowledge of what exists in the soils, we are all stewards of the earth and must practice wholesome and natural gardening and farming techniques.

As a tribute to the global Earth Day, which should be every day, look at our planet with a new perspective of what you can do in caring and being a little kinder, for there is no plan B.

So, as the soils below do their communication networking, let us humans do our part by talking and communicating and being a better partner with our friend and home called the earth, for we are all interconnected.

Roger Boddaert, The Tree Man of Fallbrook & Maker of Natural Gardens, can be contacted at 760-728-4297.


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