"We prefer the term tree enthusiast.” That’s what it says on my favorite purple t-shirt from the University of DE Horticulture Club. A small sketch shows a person with its arms around a tree. What is it about trees that make them so special? Yes, they provide oxygen. Yes, they provide homes for creatures, wood for building our homes, and more. Yes, they prevent erosion. Is that really all there is too them? Not for me and not for many others.
Trees are an important part of many cultures and are prominent in mythology. Many First Nation people have Douglas fir, cedar and pine as part of their origin story as well as their healing practices. The Norse had Yggdrasil, the ultimate tree of life that lifted to the gods. Its roots dug deep into other realms, with much going on in the in-between. Many faiths are familiar with the story of the Apple tree; Pagans, the Yule log; and Buddhists honor the pipal tree where Buddha is said to have become enlightened. J.R.R. Tolkien created the wonderful Ents, a sentient tree-like race who were shepherds of forests and allies of free people. Holdstock’s Mythago Wood explores the mysteries of Britain’s primal forests. Dr. Who discovers the helping hand [or should I say root?] of the forest when trees save all of humanity in the episode “In the Forest of the Night.” Even the country of Brazil owes its name to trees, specifically the Paubrasilia or Brazil wood. These amazing plants are entrenched within our lives.
They talk. Tree communication is not like human communication. Tree communication occurs through a series of chemical changes that are sent via the air or through the ground. Trees use mycorrhizal fungus attached to their root systems to send underground information as well as nutrients to other plants and trees. Fungal mycorrhiza receive carbohydrates from trees and they in turn provide minerals and water to root systems. Mycellia act as a kind of neuro-network for plants, sending information along their threads when a tree is sick or invaded by harmful insects. Other trees and plants nearby have been shown to increase their defense systems to ward off these infections and invasions. To learn more, read the books by Paul Stamets and Michael Phillips listed under resources.
I would also suggest that trees communicate through feeling and energy. Ever sit with your back against a tree and feel your whole body relax? Feel your energy ground and become more stable? Trees can play a big role in healing.
Witch hazel is a small tree or shrub. One grows in my yard. Because it is an understory plant, it isn’t readily noticed. In the fall it blooms its amazing little yellow flowers. As a tree essence, I use this for those who have beauty and strength within but don’t know how to show it. This essence is also good for the acerbic person who no longer wishes to hide their softer nature inside.
I love oak for Vata and Kapha people. Oak connects spirit above and grounds to the earth below. It stands tall and strong. Vata people tend to flit around. They are those wonderfully creative, artistic fairy folk. Oak can help ground them. Kapha are steady and entrenched. Oak can help them rise and connect with spirit; gets them moving. I also like oak essence for those who are making big changes in their lives and need a steady, strong force to help them make it through.
Are you feeling dried out, dried up, or needing security? Weeping willow is a great essence for this. As a tree that loves water, this is a great one to call upon when you feel like you have given everything you have and what remains is nothing but a husk of your former self. Not only does it moisten your energy, but its long, drooping limbs provide a canopy that allows you to be separate but still able to look out. Kids know this naturally when they play under willow. Willow gives you a chance to take a break.
One of the most profound moments I have ever experienced is when I visited the Redwood forest in California a few years ago. I placed my hands on one of the “younger” giants. I felt like I could touch its thoughts. These thoughts were slow and deep. If I were to just sit below it, with my back against the trunk, I was convinced I would learn so much. I had this feeling that if I was to sit there, time would disappear and I would be there still. Alas, my family and I were on vacation and needed to move on. Often, even now, I long to sit beneath those ancient beings and just listen.
When I revisit those ancient beings I will take the time to listen.
Trees provide habitats and medicine; and having given birth to the human story, encourage us to tell our own stories in many ways.
I am a tree enthusiast. Time for a walk in the woods.
-Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil -Fertility By Michael Phillips
-Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World By Paul Stamets
-The Wild Trees By Richard Preston-
Healers On The Mountain and Other Myths of Native American Medicine
By Teresa Pijoan
-Mythago Wood By Robert Holdstock
"Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus" By Nic Fleming
-"Cultural Aspects of Trees" By Dr. Kim D. Coder
Global Trees Campaign