Hello Fellow Readers, Arbor Day occurs worldwide at different times of the year, based on the growing season. In the United States, it’s celebrated on the last Friday in April. The origin of Arbor Day here dates back to 1872 when J. Sterling Morton, President Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture, spearheaded the planting of a million trees in Nebraska on April 10th.
I recently came across a quote by Mike Dooley, which brought a smile. “You can always tell an old soul by how friendly they are to trees.” I’ve always been drawn to walking amongst the trees and have hugged more than a few. (Quite giggling and give it a try.)
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Anita of Blairstown, NJ, shared an article titled Do Trees Talk to Each Other? By Richard Grant in the March 2018 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. The report is based on Grant’s interview with Peter Wohlleben while walking amongst the Eifel Mountains in western Germany. Peter serves as a forester, managing the forest as a nature reserve.
Wohlleben is also the author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World, in which he write “, “But why are trees social beings? Why do they share food with their species and sometimes nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together.” That explains why there are more old trees in forests than living on their own as stand-alone trees.
Trees communicating makes me think of the scene in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy picks an apple and is scolded by the tree, “How would you like it if someone came along and picked something off of you?”
The sad fate of an old Eastern Hemlock
I don’t know if I have an old soul, even though I adore trees. In some ways, it sounds arrogant to think so. But I know for sure I have a passion for trees. Over the weekend, a neighbor came down with his chainsaw to help tend to one of the fallen hemlocks from the doubleheader March nor’easters. His theory, if he cut the thirty-inch diameter trunk chest high, the enormous root ball, thrice my size, would flap back down to earth. And flap back it did! Thunderously with a large cloud of dust, though, I wasn’t there to witness the scene.
While the smell of fresh-cut wood reminded me of the pleasant aroma of a new home, it brought great sadness over the fate of this beauty. With great reverence, I brushed away the sawdust to reveal the age of this glorious tree, shallow-rooted amongst shale in the valley near the Jacksonburg Creek on which we live. It was close to 200 years old.
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is the state tree of Pennsylvania. According to the USDA, they are “slow-growing and take 250 to 300 years to reach maturity and may live for 900 years.” While our sacred Hemlock didn’t live to full maturity, a young Beech tree (Fagus) growing beside it rebounded back into place with the promise of new life. Happy Arbor Day. A day to celebrate trees.
Link to a related story you’ll enjoy: Beloved Beech Trees
Click through to learn more about the Arbor Day Foundation.
Bits of this story are part of Episode 84 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:
Column updated on 1/19/23