Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


The WoodWide Web

dscf1550rWhat do you think when you hear of (famous) people talking to trees – and I’m not talking about characters in Tolkien’s Middle Earth taking to Ents, a race of  beings who closely resemble trees?

According to Tony Kirkham, the head of the Arboretum at Kew Gardens trees are very much like us; they are intelligent social beings which talk to each other.

He supports the idea proposed by a German Forester Peter Wohlleben that trees communicate with each other underground through a “woodwide web“.

In a natural environment the adults protect and nurture the young ones. And when a tree is stressed the canopies are touching, there’s a lot of networking going on underground with root systems and fungal systems and they share resources.”

He believes there is intelligence among trees and care between communities. He saw a knot of albino redwoods which obviously didn’t process chlorophyll but managed to survive on their own. “They must have been receiving nutrients from other trees”.

He also thinks trees have different personalities. Willows and Poplars are unsociable and don’t like company so their method of spreading seeds ensures that they are scattered far away from the parent tree.

Oaks on the other hand drop their acorns close by and the parent tree likes to safeguard it and bring it up.

Kirkham admits that however appealing this theory is it’s hard to prove.

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Ents, whose name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for giants, are similar to talking trees found in folklore around the world.

p1010237In Lithuania, the last european country to convert from paganism, I saw carved trees in museums with human features (the wood carving at the top of the page is from Lithuania also).

People also decorate trees with human features.

They also keep them warm with urban knitting, but that’s another story.

 

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Urban knitting – looking after trees

We might not be doing a good job here in the UK protecting our ash trees but over in Lithuania they are doing their bit for trees in general.

In the capital city of Vilnius, which is generously endowed with trees, the locals have been showing their love for them.

This is not about tree hugging but knitting a woollen tree covering.

I’m not sure where the idea came from but it certainly brightens up the city.

And while it’s clearly just a decorative and artistic initiative in Lithuania in India tree decoration has a more serious purpose.

100 folk artists are painting scenes from Hindu epics onto trees to save the environment. They hope that the deeply religious community will hesitate to cut down the trees to avoid incurring the wrath of the deities painted on them.

Trees are scarce in the district of Behar due to population pressures – it is India’s second most populous state and one of its poorest. The artists work for free as there is no official funding and plan to paint around 1,000 trees to save them from the loggers’ chainsaws.

In the UK a community in Leicester is using “yarn bombing” to make the area seem safer. Woollen pom-poms have been strung from trees and tree warmers knitted by a guerilla knitting group.

Residents’ reactions are mixed and some are unconvinced it will deter crime preferring better street lighting.DSC_0085

The trend seems to be spreading in the UK. A friend of mine spotted these trees trying to keep warm in Upper Mill near Oldham recently.