Word Prompt: Birth | Story Prompt: from the book “Finding The Mother Tree” by Suzanne Simard

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“As we drove the switchbacks over the mountain, the girls asleep in the back, Jean sorting the data sheets, I reflected on my good fortune with what the forest had shared with me over the course of so many years. In my first experiment testing whether birch transmitted carbon to fir through mycorrhizas, I though I’d be lucky to see anything, but then I detected a pulse strong enough to fuel the setting of seeds. I saw fir giving back to birch the energy it needed to build new leaves in the spring. And my posse of students confirmed the findings of reciprocity, not just between birch and fir but among all sorts of trees.

In making the mycorrhizal-network map, I thought we might see a few links.

Instead we found a tapestry.

With Yuan Yuan, I figured it would be a long shot if dying Douglas firs transmitted messages to ponderosa pines. But they did. Another of my students confirmed it in a second study, as did others in labs around the world. Then I considered it a gamble that Douglas-fir Mother Trees would recognize their own kin, never mind that the signals might move through the mycorrhizal network — and mon Dieu! The firs recognized their relatives! The Mother Trees not only sent carbon to help support their mycorrhizal fungal symbionts, they somehow enhanced the health of their kin. And not only their kin, but of strangers too, and other species, promoting the diversity of the community. Was this all luck?

I think the trees had been telling me something all along.”


Now here’s a message that our politicians need to hear. Businesses, too. World “leaders” of all kinds. Nature is about cooperation, about reciprocity, it’s not about competition. Strangely, it has taken science all this time to catch up to what indigenous nations around the world have know since time began. When we all work together, we all benefit. And the “all” means much more than just people, although humanity seems to be the ones for whom reciprocity seems to come last – even (especially) within our own kind. The trees, plants and animals, fish and water, the earth, all have been leading by example since time began. Now that we know this, that cooperation and community beats competition every time, let’s change. A new humanity can be born from this knowing. And then we won’t have worries about wars and famines. Just imagine. The trees have been leading by example all along.

Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

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