The Science of How Trees Talk to Each Other

Our Berkeley tree service experts can fully appreciate the amazing science behind how trees talk to each other. In fact, excellent tree care depends on it! The natural world is full of secrets. From the deepest gorges to the peaks of the highest mountaintops, our world is full of plants, animals, and fungi that coexist in millions of different ecosystems. If a person stands on the beach and looks out at the ocean, they may have no idea that underneath the surface lies 94% of the animal species on this planet. Similarly, when a person stands in a forest, they may have no idea of the invisible messages that are being sent via underground fungal networks or through pheromones attached to spores in the wind.

Read on to learn more about the mystery of how trees communicate with each other.

Through the Air

Trees can communicate with each other using pheromones and scent signals they release into the air. One remarkable tree that utilizes this method of communication to protect its neighboring companions is the umbrella horned acacia, found in the grasslands of the African savanna.

When giraffes chew on this tree’s juicy, sickle-shaped leaves, the umbrella horned acacia notices the injury and emits a distress signal in the form of ethylene gas. The gas signals the surrounding trees to begin pumping tannins into their leaves. When a giraffe or other herbivore munches on these tannin-enriched leaves, they can become deathly sick. Other animals subsequently avoid the tree’s leaves.

Through the Soil

Trees are often thought of as singular entities, but most of the time they are connected to a larger, mutually beneficial community of trees through underground fungal networks. This system allows a collective of trees to share resources and make decisions about nutrient flow, which direction to grow branches, and how to deter predators.

The fungal networks, called mycorrhizal networks, consist of very thin threads of mycelium, or mushrooms, that help trees communicate with each other underneath the soil. By linking to this network, trees can spread information to their neighbors. For example, if an older established tree becomes aware of a struggling sapling through the network, it can draw water towards the surface through its root system to help the sapling. Trees can also agree to sabotage unwelcome plants by directing toxic chemicals through the network.

A Supportive Network

Trees can distinguish their “family” from other neighboring trees. Using seedlings, ecologists at the University of Reading were able to determine that trees can recognize the root tips of their kin and distinguish them from unrelated seedlings. Related trees show kinship by sending extra carbon through the underground mycorrhizal networks. When threatened with drought or disease, predators or insect attacks, trees will warn and prioritize family.

Berkeley Tree Service

If you are looking for excellent Berkeley tree service, look no further. At Sexy Trees, our wide range of services and care will keep your trees healthy and beautiful for decades to come. We believe in supporting our communities of trees through evidence-based techniques that you can depend on.

Give us a call at 925-233-6877 for a free estimate, or email us at [email protected] anytime with questions!