Of trees and wonder, self and other

A forest of dark green pine trees.
Tall white-bark trees growing from light brown shrub bushes.
A forest of dark green pine trees near a mountain top.

In the presence of trees, I am often filled with a sense of wonder. Observing them, I appreciate their poetry. At the same time, I wonder about the science of trees — I am curious about how exactly the trees I see are living in this place, in this season and in relationship to others.

For others who also respond to trees with awe and curiosity, I recommend reading the following books by Peter Wohlleben and Suzanne Simard.

“The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben

Wohlleben worked as a professional forester in Germany for more than 20 years, before sharing his expertise in a book about trees and their biological processes, or what he describes as the complex, unseen life of trees. The English version of this work, “The Hidden Life of Trees,” quickly became a bestseller after its 2016 publication. This book is a pleasure to read, as it combines Wohlleben’s love of trees and forests with fascinating, detailed information about them. Describing how trees live together and communicate with each other, Wohlleben successfully makes the case that trees are social beings, by their very nature. The book is “at once romantic and scientific,” as scientist and plant geneticist Daniel Chamovitz notes, and it has inspired increased attention in recent years to trees and forests – and to our relationships with them.

“Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest” by Suzanne Simard

Simard has long made the case that trees are social beings, according to their biology. As a renowned forest ecologist whose work over many decades has captured the attention of scientists and non-specialists alike, Simard is perhaps best known for discovering how trees share resources and communicate underground using fungal networks. Her 2021 book, “Finding the Mother Tree,” tells the story of this scientific work – and of Simard’s own life among the trees in British Columbia. As she tells it, scientific inquiry is personal, and learning more about the lives of trees can lead to a greater understanding of one’s own relationships with them. Such learning can also lead us to understand more fully our ecological responsibilities.

“The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition” by Peter Wohlleben

In 2018, Wohlleben published an illustrated edition of “The Hidden Life of Trees,” pairing photographs of trees around the world with excerpts of his earlier text. With its lovely, large-format photographs, this volume works beautifully as a bid for our attention, encouraging readers to travel visually and to think imaginatively about trees.

“Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest” by Peter Wohlleben

Wohlleben further reworked his material in a particularly delightful way for a younger audience, publishing “Can You Hear the Trees Talking?” in 2019. Posing intriguing questions about trees and providing lively answers, this book encourages readers to explore the lives of trees more fully and to discover a new perspective. Inquisitive readers of all ages are likely to enjoy it.

Both Wohlleben and Simard convey a sense of wonder about trees, while sharing their extensive knowledge. Reading their books allowed me to discover trees anew, while contemplating self and others – and the more I’ve learned, the more wonder I feel in the presence of trees.

Before you return to wonders outdoors, would you like to inquire within?

Check out these books in print and e-book form, and discover more from these authors with your Anythink account. 


Laura, as always you instilled a sense of wonder, I will now go give a tree a hug. Thank you

Laura, I wish, for just one day, I could see the world through your eyes. I am not much of a nature person but I find myself unable to not be intrigued and full of wonder when I listen to you or read your words when you speak about it. Thank you for sharing your passions in such meaningful words and sparking curiosity in me always. I can't wait to read whatever it is that you write next!