Trees Clapping Hands

Even at my great age, or perhaps because of it I’m still on a pretty steep learning curve, learning things I never imagined could be so. Some years ago Prince Charles revealed that he regularly talks to the trees under his care, Much derided at the time, he was looked on indulgently as an eccentric looney. 30 years later scientists aren’t so sure that he wasn’t ahead of his time. 


The book of Isaiah anticipated this some centuries earlier. As if trees could ever clap their hands! But the New Testament caps this by declaring that ‘the whole creation groans with longing. It’s taken us a couple of thousand years to get to the point where we can see what might lie behind these statements. Trees may not have hands to clap but it seems they know how to communicate.

Scientists in the University of British Columbia are finding that trees interact with each other. Apparently their root systems have the capability to transfer carbon and nitrogen back and forth. Their root systems are aided by an underground network of fungi and micro organisms. The oldest trees in the forest act as ‘Mothers’, giving out support to saplings and even seedlings, helping them to grow and flourish. (Remember Avatar?) Apparently not the competition for light and space we understood; rather cooperation, and understanding that they are stronger together even to the point of strengthening the weaker elements. When the Mother Tree comes to the end of her life she throws out much greater quantities of nourishment to the lesser trees around her, thus hastening her own demise.

When a tree’s in danger from parasites it has a number of weapons in its armoury to protect itself but it also spends valuable resources warning its neighbours about the danger. Why waste resources? Perhaps it ‘knows’ the importance of community. All this speaks of a purposeful sharing of resources

Trees then nurturing their young. I guess if trees can behave in such ways, where does it end?

I got this material from a Ted Talk by Suzanne Simard; check it out if you’re interested. The talk is primarily concerned about improving forestry methods, working with nature to improve our understanding of woodlands.

Now I have the approach of a butterfly when it comes to research, flitting happily from flower to flower. So I’m encouraged to ramble around around the web looking to see what else there is about plant intelligence. I found a leading authority on lie detectors who decided to try out his equipment on plants. In a series of experiments he found that plants respond to danger by flatlining’. I won’t describe the experiments; you really will want to write me off as a harmless eccentric. (Google ‘The Backster Effect’.)

Where does all this take us? The government is currently introducing an animal sentience bill. I’m not saying they should extend this to plant life, but this research does give me pause for thought. The Bible talks about the whole of creation groaning, not just the trees and the birds. There is an underlying harmony in the world with so much we have yet to discover. We need to take a lot better care of the world that has been entrusted to us. Most of what we do is for our benefit. Perhaps we need to think a little more about how we should be taking care of our forests, our seas. Francis of Assisi is remembered for his compassion towards the vulnerable, poor people, sick people, and animals.

A prayer from John Birch

May we, in faith,

see this world

through your eyes,

Hear this world

through your ears,

touch this world

through your hands,

and bless this world

through your grace.

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