Peter Wohlleben

Greystone Books Ltd., Abridged Edition ©2018 by Jane Billinghurst

We commonly turn to nature to meet God. We contemplate the beauty of vast, rugged landscapes, the power of violent storms, the delicate beauty of flowers, birds and butterflies. Vibrant Fall colors can take our breath away and leave us marveling, as an old friend once exclaimed shortly before his death, “Isn’t it amazing how much beauty goes into dying!” The new life emerging mysteriously in spring from the barren depths of winter becomes a sacrament of resurrection and hope for us.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben opens up to its readers a quality of life and relationship in one part of nature, in trees, that will be beyond most people’s wildest imagination. It has the power to profoundly deepen and expand our contemplative experience of nature.

Trees forming friendships and networks of communication with each other both under and above ground?

Trees that talk with each other using scents and electrical signals?

Trees seeming to recognize the value of community and acting to protect and strengthen it?

Trees with a definite strategy for raising their children healthy and strong?

Trees providing social services in their communities, exchanging nutrients and helping out the sick or more needy ones among them?

Trees warning each other of the arrival of pests or dangerous hungry animals and launching coordinated defensive actions?

Brain-like centers in tree roots that guide and direct their development and responses, learn from experience, remember past lessons, and tell time?

Trees that show greater caution in their approach to life and trees that choose more adventurous approaches?

Trees providing services essential to sustaining human life and wellbeing….

Trees creating and sustaining ecosystems vast, complex, and interrelated beyond telling….

Forest soils created over millions of years, rich with more than 7 billion life forms in a handful, working to make the soil valuable for trees….

This is just a sampling of the surprises awaiting in Peter Wohlleben’s intriguingly written tale. Wohlleben worked for the forestry commission in Germany for more than 20 years and now manages a forest academy and an environmentally friendly woodland in Germany.

This book will explode what most people think they know about trees. It has the capacity to stimulate our imaginations, open our eyes and minds to previously unnoticed richness in the life around us, stir amazement and awe, gratitude and appreciation.

In other words, it is a rich resource for praise, reverence, and caring service, for growth in prayer and spiritual growth. And it is a delightful read. Treat yourself to an amazing contemplative experience.

The Hidden Life of Trees comes in two editions, an abridged and gorgeously illustrated version featuring trees and forests from around the world interspersed throughout the text. It is a beautiful and engaging coffee table book. In the Afterword to the illustrated edition, the author us to read the unabridged version “which will give you more details about the fascinating science and as-yet-unresolved mysteries of forests, and the role they play in sustaining our world and making it the kind of place where we want to live.”


James E. Hug, S.J.