Listening to the Trees By Merrilee

There is a field of science that not many people know about, and many scientists haven’t had the experience of, to make informed comments. Many people not familiar with intelligence existing beyond primates will dismiss it, even ridicule it as they do the meaning in children’s stories, shamanism, animalism or even quantum science. But could an understanding of plant intelligence change attitudes and behaviour towards plants?

Understanding this invisible Intelligence

For some it may threaten their justification of their current actions so they need to hang onto their own ‘truth’. But there is an area called Plant Intelligence. Plants can learn, have memory and are intelligent, however the mechanism is different to that in humans. They do not have brains or neurons.


My interest in plant communication was stimulated when I became a Treesister and met Ellen who could communicate with trees, especially the Redwoods. Ellen spent days at a time hiking and sitting with the Redwoods. They provided her with great insights into navigating our turbulent world. Ellen Dee Davidson’s book ‘Wild Path to the Sacred Heart’ provides an amazing insight into her experiences. She shone a light on a path for me. If we follow our hearts we too can have greater connection with Nature.


Since reading Ellen’s book I have heard of more people, especially women who can connect deeply with trees. Usually it would be when they are in a meditative state, which slows their brain waves to alpha or beta and generally slows the whole body and its increases receptive skills. Depending on your current beliefs you may consider the ability or process as tapping into the universal consciousness, a quantum field of thoughts travelling not as matter but as energy, or a spiritual being channeling the thoughts and words (however the person senses them which may or may not be like an actual human voice) or the actual consciousness of the tree. How could we know? We don’t have the tools within our current science technology to test it.


However, Monica Gagliano, Research Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology previously at the University of Western Australia, and now at the University of Sydney has done experiments based on methods used for studying animal behavior.  Monica is the leader in research and dissemination of the new field of Plant Bioacoustics. Just type her name and you will see she has authored many articles, several books, and presented many public talks.


To quote her website - “Plant bioacoustic is a newly-emerged field of plant communication. Plants produce sound waves in the lower end of the audio range as well as an overabundance of ultrasonic sounds. By capturing the signals emitted by plants under different environmental conditions, I am exploring the ecological significance of these sounds to communication among plants and between plants and other organisms.Plant cognition is a new and exciting field of research directed at experimentally testing the cognitive abilities of plants, including perception, learning processes, memory and consciousness. The emerging framework holds considerable implications for the way we perceive plants as it redefines the traditionally held boundary between animals and plants.”


Redefining the boundaries between Plants & Humans


This fascinating work may help those who easily dismiss the narrative supplied by people like Ellen who receive messages not only from trees but animals, elements and ancestors. Indigenous people who have remained connected to the land, plants and animals have thrived for centuries by accessing such knowledge. The knowledge of what plants to eat, to use as medicine or to avoid has been handed down for thousands of years. Where did this knowledge come from? Was it instinct, universal collective knowledge or communication with the plants or plant spirits as Manari, shaman of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest explained to me?


When you consider the super abilities of Yogis and free divers who can control their breath to limits which most of us would expire at we must accept that humans are nowhere near their potential in expanding our receptive abilities in hearing sound. If we look into Monica’s research and slow down to ‘plant time’ we may find we can hear, or in some other way sense the acoustic sounds they produce. We can already use microphones to hear the sounds; therefore it is likely some of us can hear them without devices.


A Call for Help


Recently I have heard that the trees are calling for our help. Many different sounds have been recorded and plant scientists who reproduced the conditions trees are exposed to inside an agar plate have discovered the sound a stressed tree makes. “Inside tree trunks are bundles of specialized tubes called xylem, which rely on the attractive forces between water molecules as well as those between water and plant cells to lift liquid to the highest leaves and branches….In drought-stricken trees, … increased pressure can cause the water column to break, allowing dissolved air to form bubbles that block water flow… called cavitations,… Since cavitations can kill trees, scientists and forest managers want to know when they are increasing.” Hopefully if water can be supplied the trees will live. The science can tell us which trees are calling for help. But who will listen?


They are asking that we stop cutting them down, polluting and increasing saline levels in the water. We need to plant and nurture many more. The trees need the underground water and their relations, other trees in forests, where vapour is transpired and carried through the air to create rain. And maybe they need our songs and love as well.


Another account of sounds produced by trees is given by David Haskell in ‘The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connections”. David uses microphones attached to recorders to listen to trees and some of these sounds can be attributed to movement of water through cells and the zylem… but he also listens deeply. He is awake to the inter