Trees and plants have a unique sedentary and unvocal way of life. They can't move or speak. However, trees, like every natural thing, convey their emotions through their physicality. Plant growth is affected during intense periods. Also! Trees have found a unique way to talk to one another. Yes, you read it right, trees talk, not in the way you might expect but there is definitely an exchange of dialogue between them. So let's find out how!
Trees in nature and forests are the stones of the ecosystem. Every insect, animal, and decomposer is essentially dependent on them. Trees fix carbon dioxide and produce sugars. Members of the kingdom fungi are a very important part of the conversation between trees. Some special fungi form a mutually beneficial bond with the roots of the trees. Fungi cannot make their own food and are saprophytic in nature. This means that they depend on dead organisms and harvest their food through them. When fungi form associations with the roots of higher plants, they are no longer dependent on dead organisms. They directly take the food and nutrients from the tree. In return, the tree benefits from easy uptake of nutrients. The nutrients in the soil are easily taken by the fungi and passed onto the tree.
How do mycorrhizal networks connect trees?
The older the tree, the longer and bigger mycorrhizal associations it forms. It was found that a tree's roots are interconnected to one another through this network. These act as wire connections between trees for signal transmission. This symbiotic association is beneficial not only on a personal but also on a community level.
What do trees talk about?
The method of conversation has been talked about in the earlier section of the article. But what do trees talk about? And the answer is, just like us they can talk about a variety of things. Trees can converse about the stress conditions in the environment like drought or other calamity. Attacks by animals like flies, aphids, or other animals can also be conveyed through these signalling networks. It also postulated and theorized that the fungi part of the association helps in effective cross-talk between plants in order to increase the number of connections. Trees converse with each other through molecules like carbohydrates, enzymes, microRNA, and other available compounds. The older generation of trees that occupy the most land in a forest are the most conversive of all. When bigger and older trees are cut for timber, more and more connections are lost in the community.
There's a symphony in forests, where trees voice an unheard cryptic language. Next time you move across two trees, who knows they might be conversing about you!!
Barto, E.K., Weidenhamer, J.D., Cipollini, D. and Rillig, M.C. (2012). Fungal superhighways: do common mycorrhizal networks enhance below ground communication? Trends in Plant Science, 17(11), pp.633–637. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2012.06.007.
Shen, G.X., Zhang, J., Lei, Y., Xu, Y. and Wu, J. (2023). Between-Plant Signaling. Annual Review of Plant Biology, 74(1), pp.367–386. doi:https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-arplant-070122-015430.