I love books. Books take you to places where travel may not be possible, except in your imagination. Every once in a while a book comes along that makes an impact on how you view the world around you. The Wild Trees by Richard Preston is one such book for me. Throughout the book you get to go on a journey to the tops of coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) where a whole new ecosystem lives. Preston writes, “Tree climbers call a tree that has never been climbed a wild tree.” While I would love to go to the canopy of these incredibly tall giants it is unlikely that I will get to do so. Redwoods, while large, are delicate and if too many people climbed them, the trees could be harmed. Still, to stand at the base of one and look up is to look into eternity and the world of amazing possibilities.
The canopies of these redwoods are home to mosses, evergreen and red huckleberry, rhododendrons, lichens, ferns, and more. Red voles sleep there and earthworms make their homes in the soil that is created by decay in the canopy. Due to the poisonous nature of the wood and needles, few insects live in the trees so birds may roost but not stay. Bees sip from the blooms living in the trees, and plankton has been found on some of the ferns.
When Preston spoke with botanist Steve Sillet, he asked Steve if trees are an entity. Sillet replied, “It’s a being. It’s a ‘person,’ from a tree point of view…Plants are different from us, but they begin life the same way we do, with a sperm and an egg. People think of trees as objects … like a rock. Trees are responsive and alive.” This view has led me down the path of plant communication, and how to better understand our world through a plant perspective.
There are many ways we can experience wonder, connect with life, and explore possibilities. Trees are outside our doors or in a park a few city blocks away. I encourage you to get a copy of this book, sit under a tree, and let your imagination soar.
The Wild Trees, Richard Preston, Random House, 2007.
Dr. Steven Sillet