Nature on our doorsteps - If only those trees could talk . . .

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Well, maybe they do! There is growing evidence from scientific research which suggests that trees do indeed communicate with one another, through a ‘Wood-Wide Web’.

While they do not speak as we do, trees nonetheless appear to communicate, particularly when growing together naturally in woodlands.

Trees in old woodlands are connected together through soil fungi compressor

Trees in old woodlands are connected together through soil fungi­

In return, the trees provide sugars to the fungus.

We usually only see these fungi when they appear as mushrooms on the surface of the soil.

The rest of the fungus exists underground as a huge web of white threads of root-like structures called mycelium.

This forms the communication network between the woodland trees.

A line of mushrooms like this indicates an underground network compressor

A line of mushrooms indicates an underground network

Along with the nutrients that are being exchanged between the trees and the fungi, tree hormones and other chemical messages are also being circulated around the wider mycelium network.

So, instead of competing with one another for nutrients, trees in fact appear to share their nutrients and hormones via this fungal network.

This provides a support mechanism, helping the woodland prepare for (and survive) challenges like drought, disease, and attack by grazing animals and insects.

It’s good to talk, even for trees!

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