I have always been fascinated with the thought of plants communicating with each other and us. Thanks to quantum physics we have moved from a reductionist look at life to the reality of our interconnectedness with all living beings human and non human. There are three stories that have always touched me that demonstrate the communication of plants.
The first is one that happened back in the late 1990’s. It is about a young woman named Julia Butterfly Hill, who took up residence in a 1,500 year-old redwood tree for 738 days to protect it from Pacific Lumber Company. Pacific Lumber had been hired to down this entire grove of redwoods. Julia was supported by a group of activists who set up a pully system to send her food, etc., as she was able to send down waste. She affectionately named the tree Luna. Pacific Lumber Company tried all kinds of legal maneuvers to get her out of the tree. Finally out of frustration they decided to take all the trees around her and leave her and the tree. As soon as the chainsaws started, Julia said that Luna began emitting sap, not just a little, but amazing quantities pouring over her and her platform. Luna had not emitted any sap in the days of living in her shelter. Julia was convinced that Luna was crying for her partners in the grove. Was Luna crying? No one can know for sure. I choose to believe she was, as she began to witness the destruction of her family.
The second story comes out of the University of Arizona. Its science department was doing research on plant life in the desert. Again, this was the late 1990’s. What they found truly surprised them and started them on a completely new path of research. The Arizona desert is filled with wild pigs called Javalenas, or commonly known as Collard Peccary. They observed that as a Javalena was eating the berries from one shurb, the shrubs surrounding this one were being left alone by the other pigs. As they researched this phenomenon they discovered that the shrub being attacked sent out distress messages to the plants through its root system warning them of disaster. Receiving the message, the plants developed thorns preventing the pigs from eating their berries.
The last study study is the findings that trees talk to each other. Scientists have found they communicate via pheromones, hormone like compounds that are wafted on the breeze. When one tree is being attacked by insects, gypsy months, or beetles it sends out distress signals. The downward trees catch the drift, sensing those few molecules of alarm. This gives them time to manufacture defensive chemicals benefitting the entire grove.
Plant life survives through unity and communication, protecting each other from harm. We humans do the same thing. It seems hard to believe at this time of deep divide. I
know that if I were stranded on the freeway a majority of those passing would stop and help. They wouldn’t ask my political allegiance. I write this post as a reminder to me, as well as others, that we do stick together in times of crisis. Our country seems so divided, flamed by hate-filled rhetoric, that it sometimes feels there is no hope. I return to the simple belief in kindness. I see it every day when I pay attention.
May we pay attention to acts of kindness we receive and give each day. This is our way of caring for each other, maintaining hope in a world that seems to have gone array. We need it more than ever at this time in history.