The Wood Wide Web
Now that we have arrived at the height of the season, what a fabulous green spring it has been. Treading daily along paths of flowering shrubs and perennials to check what has come into bloom, it’s like taking a walk through splendor every single day, the colors, the scents, the smells.
Though the trees and bushes are best viewed, of course, on one of the remarkably few sunny days we have experienced in the last few weeks.
But the ongoing deluge of rain has meant that absolutely everything has been growing like crazy. Plucky young trees that survived the winter with some pruning back, caused by Mother Nature herself, have now filled in completely and grown close to a foot taller. Incredible growth, with the earth absorbing all the sky-fallen moisture each day, making it feel spongy and moist. And returning it to us through incredible plant growth. I have never seen more buds on the peonies, nor taller bushes. Everything seasonal is at peak growth.
All this earth energy, held in reserve all winter long, is springing out now in trees and bushes and flowers. If you allow it space to come in, as you walk underneath giant green-canopied trees, a sense of peace gradually comes over you. When you feel that, in the same moment, look up to see their grandeur. And realize that all this growth, the translation of light and earth and water into uninhibited expansion, has made the trees come into their glory in six short weeks. If you listen hard enough, with that still, small voice inside of each one of us, you can feel the joy of the trees.
It’s this time of year the sense of living in a verdant biosphere feels strongest in me. I have always had a strong sense of conservation. As a teen, I memorized Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, in order to recite it as a night-time tale for the children I was babysitting. “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs…”
Recently, I visited California for a workshop, and spent time in the Redwoods. Not enough time, I might add. They are such magnificent trees, you can feel the intensity of their presence almost immediately. In any case, the guide spoke about how the “mother” redwood trees are known to provide water and other nutrients to their daughter trees at need. They have a system of communication. In fact, redwoods were reduced to such low numbers that CA enacted a law that it made it illegal to cut down any more down, so much devastation was done to them by previous, non-conservation minded generations.
It has now become known that all kinds of trees form networks underground. In times of drought or lack, the strong trees are able to dump nutrients down their roots and provide it for the younger and weaker trees and plants. It is not really known yet how all this happens, except that funghi networks play a part in translating the information between the trees. This was discovered only a few years back, by forest ecologist Dr. Suzanne Simard. And the network has been named the wood wide web.
These fungal networks also boost the immune systems of the plants that are hosting them. And it is the immune system of the trees that provide such a benefit to humans who are walking through them. When you stride along a forest path and breathe in deeply, that scent is made up of terpenes released by the trees to help protect them from all kinds of natural predators. And it provides an immune boost for humans as well. It is when the air is moist that the highest amount of terpenes are circulating through the woods. This is just one of the many ways that spending time in nature boosts your health naturally.
So now that it is spring and the weather is perfect, why not spend time in nature and plan for more forest walks this weekend?