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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Discover the Science of Fall Foliage

WEB REVIEW:  Arboretum Plant Photo Gallery: Fall Foliage

This fall foliage collection includes photographs, an explanation of the science of autumn leaf color, and a list of selected plants that provide colorful autumn leaves. The list notes the specific colors provided by the plants (such as orange or dark red), and includes links to the gallery images where available. From the United States National Arboretum. (c. LII.org)
URL: http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/FallFoliage

Tree Books Worth Discovering

By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Sienna’s Arbor Day Episode on HFVS inspired me to compile a list of some of our favorite tree books I thought readers might find useful this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is to take my daughter Zoe on a hike with the intention of finding a new tree friend. We will hike until she finds one, then we’ll stop and spend some time with “her” doing a bark rubbing, tracing/ drawing the leaves, photographing, hugging, identifying and finally sitting up against her quietly to see if she has a message for us. Often we will end our time together by me reading or telling Zoe a story. Our favorites for our tree walks are nature tales by Thornton Burgess.

There are so many kids books about trees. Some fiction and some not. I am drawn to them all. There are the typical early science ones by Gail Gibbon or Bobbie Kalman, but here are a few of our favorites:


  • The Tree Farmer – By Leavell & Cravotta
  • The Old Tree – By Ruth Brown (A fun nature story with a great surprise at the end!)
  • An Elm Tree and Three Sisters – By Norma Sommerdorf
  • Sarah’s Willow – By Friedrich Recknagel
  • Spirit of the Forest: Tree Tales From Around the World – By Eric Madde


  • Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art – Illustrated by Thomas Locker & written by Candace Christiansen (Beautiful Illustrations as we all expect from Thomas Locker.)
  • The Tree in the Ancient Forest – By Carol Reed-Jones (Beautiful lyrical story of life around an old-growth fir tree


  • Around the Oak – By Gerda Muller
  • My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America – By Diane Iverson (Kids share their special tree. Somewhat of a field guide)
  • A Logs Life – By Wendy Pfeffer (Decomposition for kids.)
  • Exploring the Forest with Grandforest Tree – By Joanne & Hand (Great homeschooling book! Like no other.

Guide Books:

  • Trees, Leaves & Bark (Take-Along Guide) – By Diane Burn

I have to stop. Oh don’t forget the story the Man Who Planted Trees and Hope, another classic! I’ll have to gather up some of my favorites from my adult collection and share a list one of these days!

After a couple of season of doing these tree walks I have found that Zoe notices trees where ever we are, ” Oh that would be a great tree house tree” or “look mama that tree needs a hug”.

About the Author: Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference. tlemos@noho.com

Video Review: The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono

We recently rented this video from Netflix and watched it with our daughter. Here is a 10-minute preview of the movie. Be sure to watch before sharing with your family to make sure age appropriate. The story can be found here. We found the video to be beautiful and empowering. The movie can be seen in its entirety on Google Video: The Man Who Planted Trees. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

The tale is narrated by a twenty-year-old man who remains anonymous throughout. (Although it has been suggested the narrator may perhaps be the author Jean Giono, there is no evidence for this.) The story begins in the year 1910, when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through Provence, France, and into the Alps, enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness.

The narrator runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilization except old, empty crumbling buildings. The narrator finds only a dried up well, but is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, the narrator stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined ecosystem of the isolated and largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, makes holes in the ground with his curling pole and drops into the holes acorns that he has collected from many miles away.

The narrator leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War. In 1920, shell-shocked and depressed after the war, the man returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through it where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain. The narrator makes a full recovery in the peace and beauty of the regrowing valley, and continues to visit Bouffier every year. Bouffier is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become a bee keeper instead.

Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden. By the end of the story, the valley has a vibrant ecosystem and is peacefully settled. The valley receives official protection after the First World War. (the authorities mistakenly believe that the rapid growth of this forest is a bizarre natural phenomenon, as they are unaware of Bouffier’s selfless deeds), and more than 10,000 people move there, all of them unknowingly owing their happiness to Bouffier. The narrator tells one of his friends in the government the truth about the natural forest, and the friend also helps protect the forest.

The narrator visits the now very old Bouffier one last time in 1945, at the end of World War II. In a hospice in Banon, in 1947, the man who planted trees peacefully passes away. – Wikipedia

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