5 Things We Learned From ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ Book

Our tree service professionals at Urban Forestry Tree Service enjoy reading about plants, specifically trees. We also realize that trees are truly magical, living, breathing beings on our planet. We often find ourselves talking to trees and every once in awhile, singing to them. We believe that trees have the capability to listen and flourish when we connect with them. In fact, recent studies show that sound can impact the growth of plant cells! We find this to be a truly amazing characteristic of plants. More and more research is coming out about how some characteristics related to trees almost seem “human”. Trees can be social and can in fact communicate with one another.

Author (and tree researcher) Peter Wohlleben explains how trees communicate with one another in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World.”  The book is a must read anyone interested in trees or nature. Our tree care professionals are going to share some of our favorite findings from this incredible book!


Trees can’t verbally communicate with each other like humans can, by using our vocal cords and ears. Trees can still send message throughout the forest to other trees. For example, if an animal or even an inspect begins to bite the tree’s leaves, the tree can emit a signal using scent compounds to alarm other trees in the area. The other trees can pick up on these scents (even up to 100 yds away!) and begin to start their own defense mechanisms. Some trees can start to product toxins in response to prep for an attack.


Trees kind find several ways to defend themselves through their own mechanisms, but sometimes they have to rely on outside help for more defense. There are several species of trees that have a relationship with insects to defend against other predators. For example, there are trees out there that will call upon wasps for assistance. The wasps will then attack the insects whose goal it is to feed off of trees!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Trees don’t just communicate through scent alone, they actually can work with other species to send messages to each other. Trees often work with fungi or fungal networks that live near their root systems to send messages to other trees. This is much more effective than scent because trees need to rely on the wind to carry those messages. Fungi, however, is stationary and therefore a much quicker mechanism to use as a communication tool. Trees use electrical signals to the fungi, which then gets transmitted to nearby trees. This system works much like telephones today!


Trees are also social creatures and need to have a community nearby to communicate with. Trees that can’t communicate with others due to illness, isolation, or lack of fungi often struggle for survival. They can’t defend themselves against attack from insects, because it takes a community to communicate about an upcoming attack. Insects will also try to test trees by biting out their bark or leaves to see if they’ve been “warned” by other trees.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com


Trees function best when they are part of a larger tree community. Trees are social creatures and actually help each other survive and stay healthy. Trees will actually give nutrients to other trees that are in need, especially sick or elderly trees. Trees will also share their nutrients with other nearby trees how might be in a location that doesn’t allow them to thrive, such as trees in the shade or bright sun. The soil quality also is a factor that plays into nutrients that are shared amongst the group equally. Trees that produce more nutrients will share to less productive trees using their underground root system.

This short list of things our tree service professionals learned from this book only scratches the surface of what we found in “The Hidden Life of Trees.” If you are also curious to learn more about trees, feel free to reach out to our tree care specialists and find out more about how you can take care of your trees!

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