CBEdu Resource: Native Trees & Forests

Understanding our Native Tree Species

German author Peter Wohlleben’s recent book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate has sold more than 800,000 copies in Germany and is now on the best-seller list in the United States and elsewhere. Wohlleben’s book is popularizing revolutionary new scientific research demonstrating conclusively that trees communicate with each other. Through what some scientists are calling the ‘wood wide web,’ intricate underground fungal networks that connect them, trees actually exist in colonies, which share a collective intelligence, like ants. The fungi, which grow from the tiny tips of tree roots, consume around 30 percent of the sugars that trees gather through photosynthesis, almost like a form of payment. This fungal communication system is vital to the survival of many younger trees, particularly in the darkness of the deep forest. Without access to rain and sunshine, these trees are actually supported by the rest of the colony, by transferring much-needed sugars to the youngsters through the fungal network.

Want to experience the forests and trees here in Western MA? Check out our list of places to discover in your community with friends, family, or on your own, in our post, Self-Guided Hikes in Western Massachusetts.

Woods of the World on Display at Lyman Plant House

Woods of the World
Smith College Lyman Plant House
Northampton, MA

The Woods of the World permanent exhibit consists of 178 unique woods from all parts of the globe and hangs from the walls and ceiling near the north entrance of Lyman Plant House at Smith Botanical Garden in Northampton, MA. Utilize this local resource as a way of supporting your child/students interest in dendrology and forest product manufacturing.

Do you know what the inside of a pine tree looks like? How about the inside of something far less common, like a plum, yew, or gum tree? Get an inside look at all of these trees (and over a hundred more!) at Woods of the World, a fascinating permanent exhibit at the Smith College Botanical Garden’s Lyman Plant House in Northampton, MA.

Woods of the World (also known as WoW) features panels of wood from over 170 trees from all around the world. The panels cover a section of the plant house’s walls, ceiling, and floor and are representative of a diverse group of tree species from all over the world. By visiting this intimate hallway exhibit, families can learn about the uses for and origins of many types of wood, revealing wood grains in all shapes and patterns; while none of the panels have been stained, some have changed shades slowly over time, further expanding the exhibit’s range of colors.

Visitors to the exhibit can use a key, along with numbers on each panel, in order to determine what type of wood each panel represents. A handful of informational displays share information on the shapes and patterns of  wood grains, and how examination of a tree’s grain can be used to learn about the tree and its life. The exhibit also offers information on the American elm tree, a species decimated by Dutch Elm Disease. In addition, the exhibits cork flooring is accompanied by information on cork which is, much to the surprise of many children, derived from a cork tree…

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