Nature scene

Amazing Nature: The Forest for the Trees

Nature is amazing. The more we learn about it, the more we realize how little we understand the intricate, perfect systems that make up our environment. Maybe the expression is more apt than we realize, and we really can’t see the forest for the trees!

We usually think of the woods as just a bunch of individual trees and plants, but in fact, a forest is a community, or even a family.

Did you know that trees communicate with each other? What’s more, they cooperate. They nurture, protect and help one another in a miriad of ways.

Arcadia trees are a fascinating example of how trees can work collectively. They react to the threat of animals eating too many of their leaves by warning each other, and poisoning their attackers. They send out a gas to inform others of the danger, and they all begin to produce higher levels of tannin, which is toxic.

There is a forest in Utah made up of thousands of quaking aspen trees. But it turns out that they share a single root system, and so they are actually a single organism. Moreover, this Pando tree, as it is called, is thought to be thousands of years old (1).

Some trees are so large and live to be so old that they support a whole other forest on their branches. Giant redwoods can sustain entire ecosystems that include hundreds of species of animals, insects and plants, and even other full grown trees (2).

The lives of trees are incredibly complex and their societies have some similarities with our own.

However, it is important not to get carried away with the idea that trees are always gentle and kind. They tend to only help others who are in their own families or when they are likely to receive help in exchange (3). And for as much as there is cooperation amongst some trees, there is also fierce competition for resources amongst others. In this way, maybe trees are more like humans than we would like to admit!

Let’s practice English by exploring and celebrating the amazing lives and communities of trees.

For the complete lesson plan, click here.

We’d love to hear what you think. In what ways are trees similar and different from humans? What do you think that we can learn from trees? Please share your comments below.

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