The Wolf Tree and the World Wide Web


Skin burning, I returned to the shade and checked for the wasp sting. I should show my daughters how to make a baking soda poultice. I sat down and leaned against the old tree feeding this crescent of seedlings through the mycorrhizal network, the young’s needles quivering in the afternoon air.

The old trees were the mothers of the forest.

The hubs were Mother trees.

Well mom and father trees, since every Douglas fir has male and female pollen cones.

But… I felt like I was becoming a mother to myself. With the elders taking care of the young. Yes that’s it. Mother trees. Mother trees connect the forest.

This mother tree was the central hub around which saplings and seedlings fit together, with threads of different fungal species, of different colors and weights, binding them, layer after layer, into a strong and intricate web. I took out a pencil and a notebook. I made a map: mother trees, young trees, seedlings. Lines were drawn between them. Emerging from my drawing was a pattern like a network of neurons, like the neurons in our brains, with some nodes more strongly linked than others.

Saint smokes.

If the mycorrhizal network is a facsimile of a neural network, the molecules moving between the trees were like neurotransmitters. Signals between trees could be as sharp as electrochemical impulses between neurons, the brain chemistry that allows us to think and communicate. Is it possible that trees are as perceptive of their neighbors as we are of our own thoughts and moods? Even more, do social interactions between trees have as much influence on their shared reality as that of two people engaged in a conversation? Can trees discern as fast as possible?

How similar could the mycorrhizal network be really to be in a neural network? Of course, the model of the network and the molecules that are passed from node to node via the links can be similar. But what about the existence of the synapse; isn’t that crucial for signaling in a neural network?

Could the information be transmitted through the synapses of mycorrhizal networks, in the same way as in our brains? Amino acids, water, hormones, defense signals, allelochemicals (poisons) and other metabolites were already known to cross the synapse between fungal and plant membranes. Any molecules arriving through the mycorrhizal network from another tree could also be transmitted through the synapse.

Chemicals are released into these synapses, and the information must then be transported along an electrochemical source-sink gradient from the fungal root end to the fungal root end, similar to how a system works. nervous. It seemed to me that the same basic processes were happening in the mycorrhizal fungal network as in our neural networks. Give us that flash of shine when we solve a problem or make an important decision or align our relationships. Perhaps from the two networks emerges connection, communication and cohesion.

It was already widely believed that plants use their neuronal physiology to perceive their environment. Their leaves, stems, and roots sense and understand their environment, then alter their physiology – their growth, their ability to search for nutrients, the rates of photosynthesis, and the rates of stomata closing to save water. Fungal hyphae also perceive their environment and modify their architecture and physiology. Like parents and children, my daughters, Don and I, we adapt to change, we align to learn new things, we find out how to endure. I’ll be home tonight. Mothering.

Latin verb understand means to understand or perceive. Intelligence.

Mycorrhizal networks could have the signature of intelligence. At the heart of the forest’s neural network were the mother trees, as essential to the life of small trees as I am to the well-being of Hannah and Nava.



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