The Heartbeat of Trees – Review

The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature, by Peter Wohlleben, June 2021. Greystone Books, ISBN 978-1771646895, 264 pages. RRP £19.99 (hardback)

Some years ago I could be seen in spring with a stethoscope on smooth barked trees listening for the ‘heart beat’ sound within the tree. (You really can hear one.) So I was completely caught by the title of this book and I am glad I was. In a conversational style, Wohlleben introduces us to the world from the trees’ point of view and to all the benefits we can gain from walking in a forest. He initially invites us to increase all our senses in the forest, the community of trees: to increase our sight range by looking to the tops of trees, to taste, to listen, to feel. I am looking forward to trying young beech and oak leaves in a salad this spring.

Wohlleben explores some scientific discussion around trees, and challenges the view that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, pointing out how very much longer trees have been around than humans and the fact that they managed just fine without us. He sees the forest as a whole organism, and explains the interactions between trees, though these are on a much slower and longer timescale than our conversations. The role of fungus and the trees’ methods of defence from it, is especially fascinating.  It is an outcome that benefits us too, when we walk in a forest of pine trees, because the air is germ free as the trees give off phytoncides, a plant antibiotic, as a defence against fungal spores. This is of particular benefit to those with allergies or inflammation. We are introduced to research that underlines the many ways in which trees benefit our health. It was fascinating to read of the Japanese research that discovered an increase in cancer killing cells and anti cancer proteins in those who walked regularly in a forest.

Wohlleben defines the differences between a natural wild forest and human managed woodland, suggesting that “forest” is kept as a term for wild forest, the rest being called “plantations” or “managed spaces”. He pleads for wider recognition of the benefits of forest for the environment, and the potential for healing the damage to the climate, and also describes some local action.

This is a book very well worth reading, and reading more than once.  It contains so much interesting information that you won’t remember it all, but will wish that you could. I strongly recommend it, and it is a book I will now be giving as presents this year.

Chris Polhill

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Author: Ed Beale | Date: 28 April, 2022 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0


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