The Wakeful Forest

Forest

I’m still working up to a discussion of Gwyn ap Nudd as Lord of the Forest, but there’s more I need to cover in order to prepare the ground, as it were.

In my last post, I discussed the visible forest: the complex mix of woodland and pasture, with oxen, wild cattle, wild horses, deer, wild pigs and boar, all contributing. There would have been bear, and wolves, and wild cats, and beaver; even the humblest birds play a role in shaping the forest and the land.

But that’s not all. Not by a long shot. That’s just what we can see with the naked eye.

Beneath the soil, there’s a lot more happening. There’s a “Wood Wide Web” of fungi connecting the roots of the trees across huge areas of forest; a web that trees use to transfer nutrients to each other.

This transfer happens between ‘mother trees’ and their own seedlings. It happens between trees of different species, who are able to obtain different nutrients that the other needs. It’s used by trees to keep alive the stumps of their fellows that have been felled, and so are unable to photosynthesize.

And that’s not all. Trees faced with predators – deer, and the like – can produce chemicals to discourage browsing. They emit chemical warnings, to alert down-wind trees. When facing insect damage, they attempt to attract insect-eating predators.

The trees are alive, and communicating, and working together. The forest is alive: it is not a collection of trees, it is a community of tree-groups.

Cut down “mother trees’, and the entire forest can fall apart.

There’s a lot going on in a forest.

We can’t see this with the naked eye. Can we sense it with the mind’s eye?

Did the ancient Druids and their predecessors, those minds that watched the stars over centuries, and mapped their movements, and built stone circles to mark their positions… did those minds also understand that the forest also has a mind?

To read the details about the Wood Wide Web, the Smithsonian has a good article. There’s also a good piece here about the German forester, Peter Wohlleben, which sets out a lot of the details.

There’s also a number of great pieces of video, which I absolutely recommend. They demonstrate that this is no hippy-dippy thinking; the existence of the Wood Wide Web has been proven by rigorous scientific research.

How trees secretly talk to each other – BBC News

Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other

Suzanne Simard: The networked beauty of forests

“The Hidden Life of Trees” Peter Wohlleben

We’ll never be able to look at woods and forests in the same way again.

Image credits: Forest by Alexander Steinhof on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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