The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature by Peter Wohlleben

book cover the heartbeat of trees

Forester and conservationist Peter Wohlleben is the author of the bestselling book The Hidden Life of Trees.  I recently came upon his book The Heartbeat of Trees.  I love reading literature that deepens my appreciation of the natural world, and Wohlleben’s newest book did not disappoint. 

Tree ‘Senses’

Recent scientific studies suggest that plants use their senses like humans. Trees attend to the things that are important to them, such as water running underground. Trees have a type of vision—scientific studies show that leaves function somewhat like human eyes. There is a chameleon-like vine that grows in South America that takes on the appearance of the tree or bush it is climbing on. A study showed that the vine would take on the appearance of a tree or bush whether real or artificial.  Wohlleben discusses the scientific theory of a tree’s “heartbeat.”  Researchers studied 22 species of trees and discovered the branches were changing position, not only morning and night, but every three to four hours. It has been posited that trees are making these movements to pump water upwards. 

I enjoy walking in the forest…the sounds and smells are instantly relaxing, and I instinctively breathe deeply.  Wohlleben notes university studies show that regularly immersing yourself in nature has many effects including lowering blood pressure and improving eyesight. Conifers emit phytoncides, a kind of plant antibiotic.  Trees do this to kill fungal spores before they reach their bark. When people breathe in this compound, it is said to reduce inflammation in their bodies. The health benefits of spending time in the forest are so prolific that in Japan, citizens can obtain prescriptions to participate in forest bathing. 

Reading The Heartbeat of Trees gives readers a better understanding of the complexity and importance of forests and our connection with them. Additionally I believe I have an increased feeling of empathy towards trees. And as Wohlleben states, “this empathy is extremely important if we want to protect nature.”

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