Title: Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest
Author: Suzanne Simard
Genres: Non-Fiction, Nature, Science
Publication Date: May 4th 2021
Source: Netgalley and Allen Lane
A dazzling scientific detective story from the ecologist who first discovered the hidden language of trees
No one has done more to transform our understanding of trees than the world-renowned scientist Suzanne Simard. Now she shares the secrets of a lifetime spent uncovering startling truths about trees: their cooperation, healing capacity, memory, wisdom and sentience.
Raised in the forests of British Columbia, where her family has lived for generations, Professor Simard did not set out to be a scientist. She was working in the forest service when she first discovered how trees communicate underground through an immense web of fungi, at the centre of which lie the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful entities that nurture their kin and sustain the forest.
Though her ground-breaking findings were initially dismissed and even ridiculed, they are now firmly supported by the data. As her remarkable journey shows us, science is not a realm apart from ordinary life, but deeply connected with our humanity.
In Finding the Mother Tree, she reveals how the complex cycle of forest life - on which we rely for our existence - offers profound lessons about resilience and kinship, and must be preserved before it's too late.
I have been reading a lot about trees over the past few years and this book is where it has been leading. It started with fiction: The Overstory by Richard Powers where one of the four protagonist’s work closely resembles Suzanne Simard’s and she is said to be the inspiration for the character. I then demolished the all popular science books I could find on the subject the best of which are The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake which were both great so reading this book is a natural progression and straight from the proverbial horses mouth.
Part memoir of growing up in Ontario, Canada and part treaties into how trees have been mismanaged over the years. The narrative spans her entire working life from her first summer job working in the Canadian Forestry service to her professorship at the university. The way she tell it she has been battling her whole working life to make the men (it’s always men) who make the policies, see what they have been trying not to, the need to change. The policy of clear cutting whole swathes of forest is something which has proven to be extremely problematic on so many levels and its hard to see why the forestry service clung onto it for dear life for so long.
Unfortunately the copy I had from netgalley all the numbers and the drop caps at the beginning of paragraphs was missing so I may have lost a bit of the detail, but the published versions won’t have that problem.
What I liked:
- The details of the experiments she did over the years both alone and with her graduate students to prove her theory.
- The passion with which she talks about it all.
- Her personality shines through her writing.
What didnt work for me:
- She does go a little heavy handed with the need to force emotions onto trees.
- Her writing style got a bit dry by the end.
Suitable For: Anybody with an interest in trees and ecology.
This book just makes me love trees more, and now I know why being in the forest feels so good.
Suzanne Simard has contributed to other books and has written introductions but this is her first book. She has also been publishing academic papers for a long time now (over 200 according to her website). The whole book is really an author bio.