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The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They… (2015)

by Peter Wohlleben

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Mysteries of Nature Trilogy (1)

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2,677884,448 (3.99)136
Are trees social beings? Forester and author Peter Wohlleben makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.… (more)
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» See also 136 mentions

English (78)  German (4)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Thorough description of the interconnected network of plants and other living beings. Reminds me of systems-thinking and should be required reading for all who want to better understand the systemic approach. If nothing else, this book will entice you to get out into nature and pay attention to your surroundings. ( )
  PlanCultivateCreate | Aug 8, 2022 |
I really enjoyed this nonfiction book that reads almost like a memoir of the forest. Wohlleben is a forest manager in Germany and he's written a book about his observations and scientific knowledge about trees. It's fascinating to hear about how trees communicate with each other, support each other, and defend themselves. The time scale they live in is completely different from the human lifespan, making them foreign and fascinating. I also was struck by how, though they reproduce so slowly that their evolution pace is extremely slow, they have great diversity within each species that protects them.

We've done so much damage to our forests, and this book will make you want to be on the side of the trees.

Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 290 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased kindle edition
Why I read this: LT review ( )
  japaul22 | Apr 24, 2022 |
Mind blowing science, and yet an easy and enjoyable read. This is a fascinating look at the current research of what we understand about how mature forests work, how trees are interconnected and how they communicate and support each other. Wohlleben's combination of thoughtful observations based on his work as a forester in an established German forest preserve and skillful interweaving of information gathered from around the world creates a moving and inspiring argument for forest preservation. I particularly like that he comes from a logging background, so is able to relate the ongoing need for wood harvesting into this greater picture. It's an inspiring book for our time of rapid climate change -- the trees work slowly, but they can make a huge impact on our continued survival as a species. I hope this book finds a wide audience. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
I took something like two years to read this. It sat by my bedside and I dipped into it regularly, but usually without too much gusto. It is full of fascinating factoids and little stories about the natural history of trees and all the things they do. It usually put me to sleep despite how interesting I found it -- the margins are full of ticks where I noted information that surprised me. Though he connects his knowledge to tree species all over the world, the author is a tree scientist in Germany, so most of the book is Euro-centric. He focuses quite a bit on the European beech.

It took me so long to read and loses some stars, because there isn't really much of a through-line to the book. Each chapter could mostly stand alone as a little essay. They do refer to each other somewhat and so reading in order is beneficial, but not strictly necessary. There does not seem to be an obvious progression of knowledge, an accumulation. For instance, why are chapters 16 (Carbon Dioxide Vacuums) and 33 (Healthy Forest Air) half a book apart? Or chapter 10 (The Mysteries of Moving Water) and chapter 18 (The Forest as Water Pump)? The content seems obvious to juxtapose rather than spread out. Chopping up the content like this makes it feel like you're having a casual conversation with an agreeable scientist about whatever you happen to be seeing on your forest walk in the moment, the musings of someone deep and knowledgable, but superficial musings nonetheless because none linger long enough to feel weighty. And yet the musings aren't superficial and he asks some fascinating rhetorical questions. For me, though, the disconnected nature of his musings left me wanting, made his knowledge feel cheap. Though the reading is personable (what a pleasant walk with Peter, I learned so much!), I found the information hard to retain because of this disconnection. So I don't feel like I missed that much reading the last 50 pages two years after I read the first 50 pages. I flipped back and checked. This style might appeal to others more.

The short chapters are based upon his anthropomorphizing of trees, with chapter titles that suggest trees are just like us -- they have friends, speak language, get sick, form social networks, go to school, and age gracefully. This seems like a tool of a passionate conservationist who wants his audience to connect to the topic as viscerally as he does, and it certainly leads to the presentation of some amazing science. But it comes off as sappy to me and almost a little condescending or judgmental.

This presentation style, his voice, the disconnected structure... he's trying to make trees interesting enough to engage us, for he complains, "the main reason we misunderstand trees is that they are incredibly slow... it seems to us that trees are static beings, only slightly more active than rocks." While his book is certainly well designed to engage a popular audience, I still had no trouble putting it down. On the plus side, there's a good bibliography and lots of facts, so as a resource for further reading and research, it's an accessible starting point. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Wohlleben's anecdotes are engaging, but sadly his book contains only a few.
added by MarthaJeanne | editNew Scientist, Sandrine Ceurstemont (Oct 29, 2016)
 

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wohlleben, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Billinghurst, JaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flannery, TimForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kytömäki, AnniForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tresca, CorinneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alle Natur, alles Wachsen, aller Friede, alles Gedeihen und Schöne in der Welt beruht auf Geduld, braucht Zeit, braucht Stille, braucht Vertrauen. (Hermann Hesse)
The Earth has its music for those who listen.
(William Shakespeare)
Dedication
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Years ago, I stumbled across a patch of strange-looking mossy stones in one of the preserves of old beech trees that grows in the forest I manage.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine this book with the illustrated edition; they are not the same book. The illustrated edition contains a much shorter version of the text as well as many photographs.
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Are trees social beings? Forester and author Peter Wohlleben makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

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