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Sharing and caring, the tree way

26 July 2019
Trees in a row

Trees not only cleanse the air, provide shade and offer scenic landscapes for humans, they’re also supporting one another through a unique communication system. Did you know that trees of the same species growing near one another will sometimes fuse roots and then exchange nutrients?

In 2016, scientists discovered that trees were not necessarily fighting for resources, but instead, sharing nutrients and supporting one another. They’re actually sharing information underground through the roots system. Scientists have now realised that the symbiotic fungi which grow next to the roots of trees from different species are sharing the vital nutrients via mycorrhiza. So when one tree doesn’t have enough, the fungi can take in water and minerals from the soil and exchange nutrients.

It was botanist, Tamir Klein from the University of Basel in Switzerland and his colleagues who discovered the phenomenon in wild trees. When a few trees were sprayed with heavy amounts of carbon dioxide, testing how trees would cope with climate change, they later found the carbon dioxide had passed into the other trees nearby. Seeing that their neighbour needed some extra support, the trees reached out through their own unique system.

“Neighbouring trees interact with one another in complex ways,” Klein said in an article. “Of course, there is a great deal of competition among them, but they also form communities, sort of ‘guilds,’ within which individual trees share valuable resources. In fact, trees belonging to a ‘guild’ usually do much better than those that don’t.”

This National Tree Day we’re celebrating this show of community, care and support by these vital contributors to our ecosystem.

Like these trees, in times of grief, it is our family, friends and others in the community who give support when we need a helping hand. They may offer support through a hug or a shoulder to cry on. They could literally give us nutrients by providing home-cooked meals. They might even hold us up when we feel we don’t have the strength to stand alone.

Trees are a beautiful part of the scenery across many of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust locations. They provide shade for visitors who stroll the grounds and a place to lean or take a moment to reflect. We have a wide range of species which add to the diversity of our locations and a natural setting for our loved ones to rest.

Trees offer a support network to one another to keep thriving through challenging times. They rise up and stay strong together.

Who will you be a tree for this week? Or maybe you’d like to share this with someone who’s been the tree for you.

Happy National Tree Day.