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Learn the key ideas of the book by Suzanne Simard

Finding the Mother Tree

Seeking the magic that lies beneath the soil of our forests

Forests are not a group of single entities that compete with one another, but a social system that communicates through underground networks. Within this system, ‘mother trees’ play a key role in caring for other plants and guaranteeing the survival of the entire ecosystem. Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest contains the scientific memoirs of Suzanne Simard, as she shares her ground-breaking discoveries in forestry, intermingled with some key episodes of her personal life.

Finding the Mother Tree
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The forest is social in nature, and the mother trees play a key role

The forest is a source of clean air, pure water, and good food, and like other ecosystems, it is part of some even broader cycles, including soil construction, species migration, and ocean circulation. In the 1980s, several researchers, including David Read, demonstrated that chemicals can pass from one plant to another through what are called fungal pathways, i.e. sheaths of fungal cells positioned around the roots of plants. This is the very starting point for Suzanne Simard’s theory of mother trees, a theory that sees forests more as a cooperative social system than a set of single trees that compete with one another.

Simard defines a mother tree as a tree of a certain age - and therefore large in size – which can become a hub for the survival of other living beings thanks to a particular type of symbiotic association called mycorrhiza (a term formed by combining the Greek words mushroom and root). Apart from surface fruiting bodies commonly referred to as fungi, a deeper layer of fungi moves largely, and almost unnoticed, through the soil, decaying wood and other substances. Here they form the mycelium, which is a body of networks of thin tubular cells. Many fungi live in symbiosis with the roots of plants, forming what are called mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae connect plants and fungi in a vast network of pathways that are essential for plant nutrition, soil composition, and communication between these living things. There are various types of mycorrhizae, and ectomycorrhizal fungi in particular are associated with trees of temperate forests such as those with firs, pines, beeches, oaks and maples.


The key ideas of "Finding the Mother Tree"

The forest is social in nature, and the mother trees play a key role
Clear cut and free-to-grow are two very common practices in the woodworking industry in British Columbia
Suzanne Simard’s life is intimately connected with the life of the forest that surrounds her
Suzanne Simard carried out various interconnected experiments to help understand the network of relationships within a forest
The concept of the mother tree comes from the observation of the parental-style care that some trees provide to others
There are several criticisms of Suzanne Simard’s work, but the importance of the discoveries she has made is never disputed
The Mother Tree project aims to revolutionise the forestry sector with a view to creating an ever greater resistance to climate change
Take-home message
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