Finding the Mother Tree In the old-growth forests of British Columbia where she had grown up—a rich reality of firs and cottonwoods and "silky fungal threads fanning through the clay," of "blond-colored earlywood, the spring cells plump with water"—Suzanne Simard started puzzling over the relationship between roots, fungi, and the forest. During a tenure at the Canadian Forest Service, she embarked on a series of breakthrough experiments that challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of natural resource management: that forests are a collection of individual trees stoically isolated in their own silos, competing to survive. This Western viewpoint was pervasive; the reality couldn’t be any more different. Forests, Simard confirmed, are sophisticated societies in which trees communicate and cooperate with one another, sharing carbon and nutrients that flow from the biggest and oldest—the "mother trees"—to the youngest and those in need. This elaborate social network is marked by partnership, not competition—with trees "interconnected by mycorrhizal fungi in a complex pattern that fueled the regeneration of the entire forest," Simard writes in Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest (Knopf, 2021). Simard comes from a family of foresters. Their culture of regenerative logging had given way to industrial clearcutting […]


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