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Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Endless Forms | 3 comments

Even Trees Need Their Mothers

This 200+ year old sugar maple is undoubtedly a mother tree.

This 200+ year-old sugar maple is undoubtedly a mother tree, slowly giving its remaining life to the youngsters sprouting up around it.

We tend to think of trees as individual entities, each one with its leafy or needled top and its own underground collection of roots. We now understand that the trees of some forests are linked below ground through networks of mycorrhizal fungi which serve to bridge the gap between one tree’s roots and another.

In an “obligate symbiotic” relationship, the trees and the fungi require each other in order to survive. The tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate energy. In return the fungi supply the tree with water and nutrients gathered from the soil.

Most importantly, each network of trees is centered on “mother trees” — the oldest largest trees in the network. Not only do the mother trees serve as hubs to distribute necessary nutrients to younger trees via the mycorrhizal network, they also pass on their legacy after they die.

This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.  –Suzanne Simard

 

Watch as Dr. Suzanne Simard, professor with the UBC Faculty of Forestry, explains:

 

Read more here: Do Trees Communicate?

3 Comments

  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing. I feel like few people know about mychorrhizal fungi, and how important they are for plants. I loved learning about the mother tree too.

    • You’re welcome Amelia. I’ve never paid much attention to fungi, but since I started blogging, I’ve covered a bunch of stories about various types and am finding them fascinating.

  2. Thanks for pointing me to this video and work. Fascinating. When great trees are felled, they do evoke strong reactions. I wonder if this is not only an aesthetic reaction to loss of something grand and beautiful, but is built on a deeper perception of what these ‘mother trees’ stand for in the environments that even we are part of…

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