Branching out: is communication possible between trees and people?

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Trees communicate with each other, store memories and respond to attacks. They have a profoundly positive effect on our emotions … but can we know how they feel about us?

Why can’t we communicate with trees the same way we communicate with, say, elephants? Both live in social groups and look after not only their young but also their elders. That famous elephant memory is also found in trees, and both communicate in languages that we didn’t even recognise at first. Trees communicate through their interconnected root systems, and elephants communicate using low-frequency rumbling below the range at which we can hear. We get a feeling of wellbeing when we run our fingers over the rough skin of both creatures, and what we would love above all is to get a reaction from them.

Is such communication possible between people and trees? First we have to take a closer look at what we mean by “communicate”. It is not enough that we consciously or subconsciously eavesdrop, so to speak, on the scents trees use to communicate among themselves. We have a physical reaction when we breathe them in, but for communication to happen, the trees also need to react to our signals.

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