Trees And Their Interactions With Other Trees

You could know the common and proper name of every tree in the world, and still not know a damn thing about trees. I personally believe that trees have a meta-physical method of communication that goes beyond anything we could ever comprehend, this post is about the physical methods trees use to communicate with each other.

I hope to do a series of posts about trees in the coming weeks, topics like the theory, propagation, planting, pruning, general maintenance and hopefully end it with the proper way to cut down a tree. I want to cover every aspect of proper tree management, especially the stuff that you would not normally find in a book. This is not meant in any way to be a “how to” article, but a general guide to the spiritual ways of planting and maintaining trees—Though I will include “physical” theory as it relates to the topic being discussed…

With all of the attention that is currently being paid to urban trees, I am finding it increasingly important to educate people on this kind of stuff. Recently a non-profit in my area has started planting trees all over Wilkinsburg, I believe 500 of them to be exact. The immediate benefits of this biologically diverse urban forest have been immense, I have done several double-takes lately in awe of some of the great trees they have planted… Now all I need them to do is start inspecting these trees for “issues” before they plant more…

The following points are just a small sampling of the methods trees use to communicate with each other, there are many more than this… This is just intended to be a starting point… Research is always required before planting a tree, don’t skip the basics.

The simplest and most common interaction is the transfer of pollen, pollen is a necessary requirement for sexual reproduction. Sexual evolution is a necessary part of our ecosystem, genes are mixed, and depending on the traits that remain dominant, the tree will adapt and prosper, or dwindle and die. When the gene mix results in an inferior tree, the tree will almost always die. Sometimes the gene mix will be superior to the original, and we now have a new cultivar.

In breeding programs these superior plants are often singled out and bread for the sole purpose of enhancing those traits, that is how we get our new cultivars… In a forest when a superior trait evolves in a seedling, that seedling can dominate and destroy the seedlings that lack the new trait. This is one of the ways plants eventually develop resistance to certain pests and diseases, just the natural selection of nature at work.

Trees mine minerals from deep in the Earth, in exchange they return starches and sugars in the form of leaf fall. People rarely realize this but a large part of a tree is actually located underground in the form of the root system, 40% to be specific. These roots can reach deep in the ground to access water and nutrients that never would have been biologically available if not for the roots, the tree is not only feeding itself, but feeding every tree and plant around it. Many trees absolutely require the readily available sugars to be present in the spring, maple trees are a perfect example—what do you think makes maple syrup so sweet and delicious?

Trees that have experienced any kind of trauma including insect and bacterial attack, will release a warning by exuding something that has a smell in order to warn other trees. Depending on the species of tree the scent can serve a number of purposes, from chemical warnings meant to warn the other trees in the immediate vicinity that something is wrong, to chemical calls to attract beneficial insects to help fight off an insect attack.

An injured pine tree will begin sending signals and can often show the first signs of infestation within 24 hours after the initial trauma is experienced, this is due to the extremely strong scent of pine sap… An evolution that is advancing as I type this… Boring insects commonly enters the tree through a fresh wound, those insects have evolved to be hyper-sensitive to the smell of the sap seeping from a fresh wound in whatever the target tree of that insect happens to be. Pruning a tree during the wrong life cycle of an insect can prove to be fatal, great care must be taken when determining the time of year you can prune a particular tree.

Trees respond to the sun, observe any houseplants ability to stretch towards the sun is evidence of that. Trees reflect light, this reflected light is called “albido”. All trees have an albido though it is different in every tree. Some trees like conifers absorb the warmth from the sun, overnight that heat is slowly released. Conifers can give off so much thermal energy during the night that they have the ability to melt snow, a characteristic that can benefit less cold hardy trees planted in close quarters with the pine tree. Trees with lighter leaves or bark tend to reflect energy from the sun, dark leaves and bark will absorb that energy. Trees with red or purple leaves absorb the highest amount of energy, this is because of the high levels of copper they contain, copper is an incredible thermal conductor.

Physically the simple act of pollen transfer is more than enough to convince most people that trees communicate with each other, I hope now you will realize that it is so much more than that. The idea that when a pine tree is attacked by a boring insect it has the ability to release sap… Sap that has a smell strong enough to warn the other trees to prepare for an imminent attack—How freaking cool is that…

Next time I will take this a step further — Trees and their interactions with people perhaps…

to hug a tree is to hug god – chriscondello

Originally posted November 25, 2012

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