Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard
Finding the Mother Tree opens with Suzanne (the author) as a young forestry worker (seasonal) understanding that recently planted seedlings in a clear felled area of forestry were not doing well. The question in her mind is why. Nearby naturally developing seedlings are doing just fine. The book then goes back to her childhood and her family’s long involvement in forestry in Canada. The scene is well set for this book.
While this is the author’s first book she has had many academic papers published. She has devoted a large part of her life to the study of trees particularly those in Canada. The initial puzzlement about the fact that seedlings are not thriving leads to a number of issues with the approach to forestry management in Canada. While Suzanne’s work has largely involved Canada her idea have spread. She is the person responsible for the idea of the “wood wide web”. When I heard about this – some years back – the idea interested me. However I hadn’t found the time to find out more until now.
Suzanne’s devotion to understanding trees and their wellbeing is remarkable. From her initial questioning of why seedlings don’t thrive she follows “threads” both literal and metaphorical in the course of this book. From this we find out about Mycorrhizal fungi and the interactions between trees and fungi in the soil. Each “answer” to her studies tends to lead to further questions and discoveries. These discoveries really are remarkable to me and so important.
I do have some small reservations about this book. For me personally I would have loved to have seen some maps showing where her work took place. I would have also liked more photos of trees, plants and wildlife too I guess. My brain would have found seeing some of the data relating to her experiments easier to understand in the form of tables rather than narratives.
Ultimately Finding the Mother Tree is both a personal biography and the results of a number of an academic studies. This combination may not suit everyone. As far as I am concerned this is a very important book. It shows just how little we really understand about our planet. It also shows our resistance to change particularly when it involves big business. From the tiniest parts of fungi on tree roots to the survival of our world – if that is not important I’m not sure what is.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review