It being Mother’s day here in Ireland, it seems appropriate to post this video. University of British Columbia professor of forest mycology, Suzanne Simard, leads us through the forest to investigate forest underground communities (her research, some of which you can find online is fascinating, particularly if you are managing a forest employing selective harvesting techniques).

I’m also responding to comments received about my last post on my young ash trees and my work in general and my growing interest in the real mastermind behind all forests.

One reader was saying how he is ‘constantly amazed at how many ash seedlings start to sprout up in these conditions, they seem like a single organism, almost like a pin mattress being pushed gently up through the soil.’ Personally, I think that its the fungi network helping in this respect, keeping the communications in sync across its nodes deep throughout the forest floor.

Interestingly, a forester with a huge interest in mycology who I met last year on a fungi food foraging day organised by the Carlow based, Blackstairs Ecotrails, was saying how new strains of fungi have already developed to relate specifically to our relatively new Sitka spruce conifer plantations across Ireland too, in just a few, short decades. Paul Stamets, who I mentioned in the last post, has likened fungal networks to an internet structure –   amazingly more responsive and sophisticated than any networks humans have yet devised but which constantly disrupt and ignore.

“…biological systems are inherently so complex that their complexity far exceeds our cognitive tools… fungi are ancient, they are widespread, and they form partnerships with many other species… They are sentient. They know you are there. As you walk through a forest and you break twigs under your feet, the mycelium surges upwards to try to capture those newly available nutrients...” (something to think about the next time you are walking in a forest, or any ground for that matter).*

Another person was thinking how I could describe my wide-ranging interdisciplinary land and networked practice. Perhaps describe your project ‘in terms of a concrete description of the mycelial mesh of practices you’re involved in, based on their interrelationship as you see it, as the “ground” of the project.’ Just wonderful!

Thanks all. I’d be interested in any comments of fungi happenings near you? My forest floor has a good number of different types of fungi; a lot of different varieties appearing since we started thinning but I wonder if they were always there,  just waiting, adapting silently when we weren’t looking, delighted and helping as ever, when the forest started changing.

Update 11.3. 13

Dang, forgot to add the reference to this post

  • Stamets, Paul (2011) in Truths among us: conversations on building a new culture – interviews by Derrick Jensen. PM Press.

6 thoughts on “Mother trees – the Earth’s networks for resilience

  1. its my day for reading your posts i guess….. the largest living organism in the world is a mushroom! It is a honey fungus- Armillaria ostoyae- that grows in Malheur National Park in Oregon, USA. It has been mapped as covering 890 hectares and is somewhere between 2000 and 8000 years old. While the honey fungus raises alarm bells among arborist types, it has one of the most complex mycelia-roots in mushroom language-systems.


  2. Cathy, quite special. I’m trying to re blog it with the following comment, but not cooperating.

    Cathy’s understanding of the dynamic flow of a forest, the rich perspectives you can bring to bear (bird’s eye, value-laden human eye, ecological & spatial scale-dependent eye, etc.), and how we are socially-connected to the complex systems, is profound. And she’s an Irish Kiwi. Quite special.


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