Die Sprache der Bäume – wie Bäume und Pflanzen miteinander kommunizieren - NIKIN EU

The language of trees – how trees and plants communicate with each other

Although trees are different from us, they communicate in their own way and are part of an intelligent and social cosmos along with fungi and other green species. Plants communicate, protect each other and adapt to each other. You can find out how this works in the blog.

A living nature in which all plants are part of a larger whole, exchange ideas, defend themselves, perhaps even feel fear or joy? This is not the Ent forest in Tolkien's Middle-earth, but any normal, relatively natural forest. Researchers like Peter Wohlleben have been drawing attention for years to the fact that plants do communicate - they just do it very differently than animals or people. The work of biologists, botanists and so-called plant neurologists has proven that the WWW of trees, the Wood Wide Web, does indeed exist and is comparable to the Internet, also in terms of its complexity. Trees warn each other of dangers, carry out “brood care” and are even able to communicate with animals.

Baum im Licht

The root brain of trees

Charles Darwin already compared the roots of plants and especially the sensitive root tips with the brains of lower living beings and spoke of the powerful mobility of plants. Current research proves him right. Deep underground, roots collect information that is passed on to the leaves high up - for example in the event of drought. The tree will “lay down” at least some of its foliage to cope with the lack of water. Conversely, the leaves signal the weather high up to the root system and, thanks to the process of photosynthesis, provide the roots with nutrients in the form of sugar.


This is how trees talk to each other

The perceptual ability of root tips was first demonstrated by the Canadian forest scientist Suzanne Simard and confirmed by the Bonn cell biologist Frantisek Baluska. However, the roots are not content with holding monologues with their own canopy of leaves - trees also communicate with each other through the network of roots. This is how they recognize when a member of their species is growing near them, both trees coordinate their growth with each other so as not to get into each other's enclosure. A tree also recognizes shoots from its own seeds and provides them with nutrients. In addition to our own roots, fungi in particular serve as mediators.


Exchange of information about the mycelium of forest mushrooms

The mushroom bodies that are visible above the ground are only a small part of the mushroom. The network of mycelium runs underground and can reach hundreds of meters in length. The mycelium is the information carrier of the forest, tree and fungus both benefit from the transmission of impulses. The tree supplies mushrooms with sugar, while the fungus prepares nutrients from the soil for the tree that the plant would not have access to on its own or would only have difficulty accessing. Scientists also owe Suzanne Simard for proving that and to what extent this nutrient transfer takes place - using radioactive carbon particles, the researcher was able to demonstrate the extent as well as the fact that trees of a different species also benefit from it.


Managing predators – with plant poisons and attractants

It is now known that plants not only “talk” to other plants, but also interact with animals - they react quickly and often surprisingly effectively, especially to feeding pests. The increased production of its own toxins can even be fatal for large mammals if an otherwise “edible” tree finds itself unduly threatened. Plants also defend themselves against caterpillars. Oak trees send signals to the trees in their neighborhood when they are attacked by processionary moth caterpillars, and wild tobacco boosts its nicotine content. The tobacco plant can even attract beneficial insects such as lizards if the caterpillars cannot be controlled otherwise. As the director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Ian Baldwin, discovered, the tobacco plant recognizes who it is dealing with from the caterpillars' saliva.

Baum am Wasserfall

Forests in documentary films – anything but extras

Documentaries clearly convey how well the forest's communication network works - and at the same time illustrate the damage that, conversely, is caused by monocultures. A commercial forest is a monoculture that lacks the complex network of the Wood Wide Web. It lacks mutual protection and the supply of vital nutrients, but also light and water, which trees, even those of a different species, share with one another. In addition, we can look at the secrets of the forest from a perspective that is unfamiliar to us - namely that of the plants themselves.

We too are connected to trees! Find out now when the next NIKIN TreePlantingDay is and get to know our forest commitment better.

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