|Maggie walking with me in the woods.|
Last Halloween as I was taking my morning walk in the woods with my dog, I heard a tree, maybe fifty feet or so to my right, moaning and groaning. I stopped and looked to see which tree it was that seemed to be distressed. There was very little wind that day, only enough to barely cause the dried leaves on the young beech trees to flutter. I’d never heard that sound from this area of trees before, although further on where my walk is almost ending, it isn’t unusual on windy days to sometimes hear the trees in that area making sounds like those coming from a haunted house in a horror movie. But then I could notice the trees swaying and their branches connecting. This day there wasn’t any movement in the branches of those trees. I moved on and the tree grew silent. My path looped around so that I was approximately the same distance from that tree, but it remained silent.
The next morning, All Saints Day, the same thing happened. It was another quiet day until I grew closer to that tree, and it started moaning again. I tried to figure out which tree it was and couldn’t pick out anything that would cause that sound. Even stranger was that as I moved on a little further, the younger trees to my left at the edge of the woods, started making noises, too. Not quite as eerie as the larger tree, but still unusual in that I’d never heard them before, especially since it was a relatively quiet day. That was the last time I heard those trees last fall even though I continued my morning walks in my woods until the winter became so brutally cold in January with copious amounts of snow which stopped my walks until late March or early April. Even then I was too busy to take more than several walks plus there were a lot of rainy days.
|Trees in my backyard|
The morning after Easter I headed for the woods, and that solitary tree started talking again. I still couldn’t pick out exactly which tree it was then, either. I haven’t heard it since that day although I’m back again taking my morning walks weather permitting. Was it saying “Welcome back?” I know this all sounds like some weird paranormal event, or maybe something a demented mind is making up, but it was real.
I’ve heard before that plants do communicate so last fall I consulted my old friend, Google, who had so many articles on the topic that it was too overwhelming to download and read all of them, but I did download and read enough of them to realize that as amazing as it sounds,plants do communicate with one another. From Ecology Global Network, under “Trees Communicate; ‘Mother Trees’ Use Fungal Communication to Preserve Forests” by Jane Engleseipen writes that Suzanne Simard, forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia, and her colleagues made a major discovery that trees and plants do communicate and interact with each other through an underground web of fungi connecting the trees and plants of an ecosystem. This symbiosis enables the purposeful sharing of resources consequently helping the whole system of trees and plants to flourish. Many of these fungi have a symbiotic relationship with host plants, in the case of trees, with their tree roots. The fungi actually move carbon, water and nutrients between trees, depending upon their needs.
That still didn’t satisfy my curiosity about my tree so I found an article in Science, Tech & Environment titled New research on plant intelligence may forever change how you think about plants based on a radio interview with Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire. On the idea of plant intelligence, he said some plant scientists insist they are – since they can sense, learn, remember and even react in ways that would be familiar to humans. However, he said at one time believing this would have you labeled “a wacko” but now it is comforting to people who have long talked to plants or played music for them.
|One of my dahlias|
Pollan explains, “They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives . . . integrate it and then behave in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what’s incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information.” He goes on to say that even though plants have no ears,“When researchers played a recording of a caterpillar munching on a plant leaf, the plants react. They begin to secrete defensive chemicals, even though the plant isn’t really threatened. It is somehow hearing what is, to it, a terrifying sound of a caterpillar munching on its leaves.”
Michal Pollan also says, “Plants have all the same senses as humans, and then some. In addition to hearing and taste, they can sense gravity, the presence of water, or even feel that an obstruction is in the way of its roots, before coming into contact with it. Plant roots will shift directions to avoid obstacles.
How plants react to pain, is still unknown since they don’t have nerve cells, but they do have a system for sending electrical signals and even produce neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals the human brain uses to send signals. “However, we don’t know why they have them, whether this was just conserved through evolution or if it performs some sort of information processing function, we don’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” Pollan says.
|An older picture of me with Molly, my previous collie|
This was just part of the interview of Michael Pollan, and one of the other articles I downloaded. One of the things he ended with is “That the line between plants and animals might be a little softer than we traditionally think of it as, and plants may be able to teach humans a thing or two, such as how to process information without a central command post like a brain.”
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there is an incredible amount of research you can easily access through Google out there.
Okay, now I’m feeling less like a wacko because I feel guilty tossing house plants that look like they’re on their last leg – well, they don’t have legs, but you know what I mean. I equally feel guilty when thinning vegetable seedlings or even perennials that I like, but are overrunning the beds.
Was that tree communicating with me in some way? I don’t know, but I’d like to think it was and not in a way that said “Go Away,” but rather saying “Hello. How are you today?”
What do you think about plant communication?