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The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World

(The Mysteries of Nature Series #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  46,058 ratings  ·  5,724 reviews
In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, ...more
Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Greystone Books (first published May 25th 2015)
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Diane Michael, interesting that on your profile, your only favorite quotation is R. K. Rowling's “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at…moreMichael, interesting that on your profile, your only favorite quotation is R. K. Rowling's “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” So did writing your snarky "questions" make you feel superior? Hmmm?

You may be a researcher, but my take is that this book's readers are not basic science "lab rats", but instead are a lay audience, who may have never before heard of or considered trees as social beings with senses and awareness and the ability to protect themselves against mobile foes who can cause them harm. I've heard this premise before and find it intriguing, which is why I picked it up to learn more about this fascinating topic. So what if it's anthropomorphic and charming in the telling? If he had gone the direction you suggest, it would not have had the appeal to his lay readers. I’m still reading the book, and am quite interested in continuing. Lighten up.

Klas Sundelin The translation to Norwegian has metric measurements. But the audio book I have in English has imperial units. I'm sure they wanted to make the book m…moreThe translation to Norwegian has metric measurements. But the audio book I have in English has imperial units. I'm sure they wanted to make the book more accessible to the American public. They should just have a conversion table in the beginning of the book. And encourage the americans to learn the SI unit once and for all. (less)

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I do recommend reading this book, even though I have given it only two stars! Remember two stars is a book that is OK! Read it for the new and interesting information it contains.

The book reports up-to-date information about the complex, symbiotic networks underlying communication between trees. It stresses that trees should be seen not as separate entities but rather as parts of a community where individuals are aware of their neighbors, relate to them, communicate with them and help each othe
Tharindu Dissanayake
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
"Nature is a strict teacher."

I found The Hidden Life of Trees on the philosophy shelf in a bookshop I frequently visit. Given the title, I assumed the book must be an unique read. However, once started, it became clear that most of the content had an environmental science influence. Still, I decided to give the book a try to see if how it'll turn out. And now that I'm done, I'm not sorry about the time I spent. First quarter of the book was enlightening for me in many ways, for, I had almost zer
Cathrine ☯️
3.75★ If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.
The first time I fell hard for a tree was in the Sequoia National Forest standing at the base of General Sherman. I was always a treehugger in my head but at that moment I was literally a treehugger. If you’ve never gazed up at one of the giants you are missing out on one of the earth’s wonders.
[I don’t know these people but it was wiser to post their picture than mine because it’s not legal to step over that barrier and get s
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Q: Trees are very social beings, and they help each other out. (c)

If even 10% of this is true, we live in a mode diverse world than we ever imagined.

Wood-wide-webs, allowing social interation between trees.
Trees in friendship, feeding, hugging and warning each other.
Trees having sense of taste and smell, talking to each other via sound waves of particular wavelengths.
Tree lottery.... Forest etiquette... Only a true lover of all things natural could have come up with such poetic topics to disc
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews, favorites
As humans, daft creatures that we are, we are predisposed to look at where the action is. Swift movements, loud noises and bright colours capture our attention. Maybe this stems from our primitive instinct for survival, allowing us to spot the dangers darting in our general direction. Or it could be the result of our desire to procreate that can't make us look past flaunted flesh and luscious lips. Whatever the reasons, at some point we have begun to think in terms of foreground and background. ...more
“An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life.”
― Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees


Peter Wohlleben has written a beautiful book on trees. He captures the imagination and translates his vision well. Like many science books for the masses he takes a good deal of information and distills it well for the amateur forester and part-time tree-hugger. The only reason I give this book four stars and not five is because his big
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can read this for the science or, like me, for how it helped me see. We are always in need of books that part the curtains of the familiar, the stuff we walk around and take for granted. In this case trees, all around us, the beings who help us breathe. It turns out they compete and cooperate and communicate, they form alliances and have processes that we are hard call to name so we must resort to words like grief and love. If you are non-scientific like me, or even if you are, you will be t ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: ANGELA K
Peter Wohlleben has written a wonderful little book about trees. He is a forester; he manages a forest in Germany. He must do a wonderful job, as he has amazing insights into the life of trees and tree society.

Did I say society? Yes, trees communicate with each other, nurture their young, and aid the ill when disease or distress strikes. Does this sound unlikely? Well, it sounded a bit over-the-top to me, until I started reading this book. Forests are superorganisms that exchange nutrients throu
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tolkien was right. Trees live in the sloooooow lane (imagine healing a skin wound over decades) but what lives they lead! They have incredible social networks, share food, rear children, and care for the ill. Yes, there's some anthropomorphization here, but still...

When evolution has figured out how to tell time and talk to one another, you wish the trees could also talk to us and tell their stories. Peter Wohlleben has come pretty close to speaking for them and I will never look at trees the sa
Sean Barrs
“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with larger machines.”

This is an extremely emotive book and it does wonders at humanising trees and making them seem ever more real, fascinating and valuable.

It has a strong environmentalist message, one that seeks to install within the reader a renewed sense of value for the world around them and the
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, library-book, nature

“We read in fairy tales of trees with human faces, trees that can talk, and sometimes walk. This enchanted forest is the kind of place, I feel sure, that Peter Wohlleben inhabits. His deep understanding of the lives of trees, reached through decades of careful observation and study, reveals a world so astonishing that if you read his book, I believe that forests will become magical places for you, too.”

”The electrical impulses that pass through the roots of trees, for example, move at the slo
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-nature
My father’s father was a legendary grafter of trees. So I was told. He died a few years before I sprouted so I never knew him. But my father, who had a sense of wonder at the way things worked, learned the art; and so, I was able to see a peach tree that had one branch full of plums; and he grafted a white dogwood to a pink one. No reason. Just to show he could. This technique, like many mechanical things, was not passed on to the next generation.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----

Dr. Suzanne Si
da AL
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating info on how trees are a billion times more amazing than I imagined, swoon-worthy prose, fantastic audiobook performer!
Let’s read the title again: okay?

One fascinating topic is the interrelationship among trees and fungi. “To enter into a partnership with one of the many thousand kinds of fungi, a tree must be very open – literally – because the fungal threads grow into its soft root hairs. There’s no research into whether this is painful or not.”

It’s a fascinating topic and it allows Wohlleben to speculate on many things but there is no bright line in many cases between fact and extrapolated speculation. I’m n
Simon Clark
I really, really wanted to like this book. Ever since I can remember I've felt at home in the woods, with trees exuding a reassuring aura of safety. Woods are calm, quiet, clement places for me. Yet despite this affiliation I know next to nothing about trees, so it was a delight to have this book recommended to me.
Unfortunately that's roughly when the delight stopped. Perhaps I am the wrong person to review this book, as I've been used to scientific literature in entirely different - and more co
Matthew Quann
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Anne Collini
If you've ever pondered the thought experiment in which a tree falls in an empty forest and the sound of its fall is in limbo, Peter Wohlleben's nonfiction might be for you. Quite simply, the sound would be heard, according to Wohlleben, because trees are able to interpret sound and communicate with one another. Not only that, Wohlleben attributes memory and thought to the stationary beings which most of us have long considered non-sentient. This is a book full of revelations about trees and ask ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a tree hugger! Literally. I hug, caress and speak often to my tree's.
Does any of it make a damn bit of difference? Doubtful. But, it makes me happy. I enjoy the thought of my tree roots connecting with other roots. And so it goes! I touch my tree's when I'm tired and lonesome. I feel they give me strength! Again. Do they? Doubtful, but damn...doesn't it make me feel better!😍💗🐾
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was inspired to read this book after reading The Overstory by Richard Powers, to learn more about the science of trees.

Included are how trees communicate, migration patterns, how and why trees hibernate, their place in ecosystems and more. Wohlleben manages a forest in Germany and directly addresses some of the misinformation he learned in forestry classes.

The tone of the book and its translation is very popular in tone, which made me question the science, but he does seem to cite a lot of li
Michael Finocchiaro
Peter Wohlleben loves trees and wants us to love them too. I read this book because I wanted, in my quest of reading Pulitzer's, to more fully appreciate The Overstory and I knew this was a good way to get immersed. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World is a beautiful book about how trees communicate, what makes them unique in nature, and how man has impacted their development, their lifestyles and their evolution.

Now, the idea of trees
Mario the lone bookwolf
Maybe the tree huggers are right.

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

The communication network of plants and especially trees is highly sophisticated. Solitary or only annual growing plants do not approach the complexity of the papermaking base stock. Due to their root system and their size, trees are predestined for a key position. They communicate with each other via fragrances and warn each other of pests. This causes the
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
I am confused about this one. It started quite interestingly but gradually lost its joyous nature. After the 4th chapter it turned into a heavy, didactic plant biology/botany book. I felt like a freshman without enthusiasm, and decided to use the book as a reference.

In the first three sections one can feel the writer`s enthusiasm for the trees. I liked the part `Final Road to Modernity` where he shares his view on the order in nature and the phylogenetic tree. He emphasizes how related we all a
Paul E. Morph
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely fascinating book. It shows a side to trees that will blow your mind (unless you're a smartypants and know it all already... but I'm pretty sure those people are in the minority).

The only criticism I have of the book is that the author does go off on the pure speculation bus every now and then, leaving the hard science at the station. It wasn't a problem for me as I'm used to reading scientific works and am pretty good at separating the facts from the flights of fancy. Folks
Richard Reese
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a young lad in Germany, Peter Wohlleben loved nature. He went to forestry school, and became a wood ranger. At this job, he was expected to produce as many high quality saw logs as possible, with maximum efficiency, by any means necessary. His tool kit included heavy machinery and pesticides. This was forest mining, an enterprise that ravaged the forest ecosystem and had no long-term future. He oversaw a plantation of trees lined up in straight rows, evenly spaced. It was a concentration camp ...more
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books, nature
I was disappointed by this book, perhaps unfairly. My main problem was with the language, and specifically the frequent use of slang, which detracted from what was supposed to be a readable but serious look at how trees in forests interact. I assume that this is down to the translator rather than the author, but would need to have that confirmed by someone who has read the German original. Words like "critters", "buddies" (referring to trees growing near one another) and "little guys" were inten ...more

So I do readily admit that the factual information presented in Peter Wohlleben's Das geheime Leben der Bäume: Was sie fühlen, wie sie kommunizieren - die Entdeckung einer verborgenen Welt has indeed been of very much personal (as well as of course academic) interest. However and that being said, while I do in fact agree with MOST of the author's assertions, Peter Wohlleben’s writing style and the manner in which he has chosen to organise both his thoughts and
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, nature
4.5 stars

Have you ever praised or hugged or talked to a tree? If you have, you are communicating with it more than you know. In his short poem, "Trees," for which he became well known, Joyce Kilmer expressed his wonder and love for these magnificent beings:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins i
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read! An absolute gem of a book. I might be biaised as I am what people would call a 'tree hugger'. I am sorry I did not come across this book earlier in my life. As someone who last studied ecosystems in the 80's as part of the 'normal' school curriculum, this was truly enlightening.
I would recommend buying this book for all budding teenage scientists/biologists out there (and older ones of course). It is a very easy read and packed with invaluable information about our forests.

Roy Lotz
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-writing
Apparently I have developed a reputation as a Naturkind, as my family gave me a book about birds and another about trees this Christmas. And I am glad they did. During this pandemic, with most travel off the table, and indoor socializing discouraged, I have savored the outdoor world more than ever—even if it is just a few trees and birds in a city park. It has been reassuring to think that there are organisms all around us for whom politics and pandemics are trivial. Nature can help put things i ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
You will never view trees the same way again after reading this book. Peter Wohlleben is a German conservationist and forester who manages a forest in the Eifel Mountains and has observed the slow-lane growth habits of his beloved trees, the secret underground social network that they share, the diseases and other dangers that threaten their survival--and most importantly, how crucial it is for the survival of all of us to allow forests to reach old-growth status again.

I read this book as a com
Caro the Helmet Lady
I will quote Vonnegut to resume this book: God damn it, you've got to be kind to trees. ...more
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Peter Wohlleben is a German forester and author who writes on ecological themes in popular language.

Other books in the series

The Mysteries of Nature Series (4 books)
  • The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World
  • The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things ― Stories from Science and Observation
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You’d never know it from reading the books listed here, but good science writing is incredibly difficult to pull off. There is both an art...
102 likes · 7 comments
“When trees grow together, nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be. If you "help" individual trees by getting rid of their supposed competition, the remaining trees are bereft. They send messages out to their neighbors in vain, because nothing remains but stumps. Every tree now muddles along on its own, giving rise to great differences in productivity. Some individuals photosynthesize like mad until sugar positively bubbles along their trunk. As a result, they are fit and grow better, but they aren't particularly long-lived. This is because a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it. And there are now a lot of losers in the forest. Weaker members, who would once have been supported by the stronger ones, suddenly fall behind. Whether the reason for their decline is their location and lack of nutrients, a passing malaise, or genetic makeup, they now fall prey to insects and fungi.

But isn't that how evolution works? you ask. The survival of the fittest? Their well-being depends on their community, and when the supposedly feeble trees disappear, the others lose as well. When that happens, the forest is no longer a single closed unit. Hot sun and swirling winds can now penetrate to the forest floor and disrupt the moist, cool climate. Even strong trees get sick a lot over the course of their lives. When this happens, they depend on their weaker neighbors for support. If they are no longer there, then all it takes is what would once have been a harmless insect attack to seal the fate even of giants.”
“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with larger machines.” 31 likes
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