Forest Gossip
How trees communicate


Current research indicates that trees may be able to communicate with, as well as even care for one another, shoring up any weaker individuals against disease and other pests.

This is all possible with the help of something called mycelium fungal threads, microscopic fibres that stretch from root to root creating an elegant network that connects individual plants together; these threads transfer materials vital to the plant’s survival such as water, nitrogen and carbon. Of this fungal organism, we only observe the small fruiting bodies that emerge above ground, in the form of mushrooms and toadstools. However, like
the proverbial iceberg, the true vastness of its being, known as the mycorrhizal network, wraps invisibly around, or bores into roots, spreading their symbiotic net beneath the forest floor.

‘Mother’ trees use these threads to nurture their young, feeding struggling saplings the sugars they need to become strong. Though it sounds like the stuff of fairytales, a study on douglas-fir trees, undertaken by the University of Reading, indicates that trees recognise the root tips of their relatives, favoring them when sending carbon and
nutrients through this network.

While the fungi benefit by consuming portions of the carbon, sugars and water, they facilitate the health and life of even the largest trees. The mycorrhizal network is an integral part of the complex relationship of forest survival, where different species work together to support one another’s success.