Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering How the Forest Is Wired for Intelligence and Healing
“Simard’s pioneering research gives us a new way of looking and living with the floral world . . .”
Part memoir, part scientific investigation, Finding the Mother Tree is University of British Columbia Professor Suzanne Simard’s journey through decades of arboreal research to understand that a tree in a forest is actually the forest in a tree.
Growing up in a rural, working class family in British Columbia that hand-logged individual trees, Simard saw it was possible to log a forest yet leave it capable of generating thriving seedlings. Not so with the massive clear-cutting done by one of her early employers, where Simard mapped the old, big, profitable trees for logging and then returned to monitor where seedlings were planted only to find them struggling to survive in “a graveyard of tree bones.”
That crisis of conscience opened a path to groundbreaking scientific research in the Pacific Northwest’s once vast conifer forests. Simard painstakingly established how an underground fungal network fosters and links a forest community where trees communicate warning signals, recognize and nurture their seedlings, and share water, carbon, nitrogen, and other resources across their own and with other species. Simard gives the reader the slow, step-by-step process of setting up field experiments and drawing conclusions from the data. Humility harnesses her intellect and ambition: “My instinct has always been to listen to what living things are saying. We think that most important clues are large, but the world loves to remind us that they can be beautifully small.”
Yet this was not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Simard’s work as a scientist is intimately connected to her life as a sister, wife, mother, friends, and breast cancer survivor. The child of people who lived close to the land, Simard pondered: “How to protect the forest while it provided us with wood to build our homes, fibers to make our paper, and medicines to cure our ailments. I wanted to be a new breed of silverculturist who honored this responsibility.”
Simard’s pioneering research gives us a new way of looking and living with the floral world: “The scientific evidence is impossible to ignore: the forest is wired for wisdom, sentience, and healing.”