The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

How connected are we to the environment around us and to trees in particular?  Since reading this book, it has been impossible to walk near trees of any description without seeing them in a new way.    The author has gathered together some fascinating new research which is fundamentally changing the scientific views of how forest ecosystems work.   There are a number of revelations in this book.  The first is that trees develop connections underground not only for their offspring, but with different species of trees – sharing water and nutrients so that the survival of mixed flora is protected.  Trees also share huge complex underground networks using fungi as an intermediary.   They can also issue chemical early warnings to other trees on imminent insect attacks.

The book poses some fundamental questions to our understanding of trees.  Do they have intelligence, and what can humankind do to protect forests?   The book is clearly written, and the author manages to find a light tone which emphasises his optimism that greater understanding of tree and ecosystem biology will result in changing our attitude and behaviour towards the environment.

A week after finishing this book, I took a walk in an old wood on the top of the Blackdown Hills at sunset.  There was more quiet in me than usual, and with that came more awareness of a number of slow but gentle giants of old beech and hazel trees simply being there, accompanied by inner gratitude.