In her new book, Simard contends that at the center of a healthy forest stands a Mother Tree: an old-growth matriarch that acts as a hub of nutrients shared by trees of different ages and species linked together via a vast underground fungal network. Her argument is elegantly detailed here alongside a deeply personal memoir, with her story and that of the forest tightly interwoven ... This book is a testament to Simard’s skill as a science communicator. Her research is clearly defined, the steps of her experiments articulated, her astonishing results explained and the implications laid bare: We ignore the complexity of forests at our peril ... her arguments are buoyed by rigorous, decades-spanning research ... Simard explains in clear language what the implications of these findings are, an important next step often lacking in the work of other scientists who try to share their ideas with a wider public.
A luminous weave of memoir, scientific treatise and Native-inflected meditation ... She limns her tale with rich anecdotes and family lore ... But the science here is equally absorbing. Simard is foremost a student of trees. Early on, she stumbles across a vital linkage between forests and mycorrhizal fungi, and she devotes years of graduate study and creative field experiments to the complex symbiosis between overstory (the uppermost canopy) and understory (the saplings and shrubs below) ... a literary revelation, that botany class you never knew you needed, and certain to be one of this year's most widely discussed books.
Simard demonstrates how storytelling can ignite something science alone cannot ... The strength of this story isn’t only in the discoveries she makes, although they are so fascinating it would be easy to dismiss them as fantasy ... Throw in a theory about interconnected roots and spores in the soil, and you can’t help but be impressed by her courage – but therein lies the magic of this book. This is science in action, from beginning to end, and so much more than a study published in a journal ... Simard shows us that scientific study is not just statistics and conferences, but a journey of passion and introspection that relies on the organic nature of the human mind just as much as the meticulousness of experimentation ... Alongside her forestry work, we gain insights into Simard’s friendships, relationships, marriage, motherhood and her recent breast cancer. Her talent as a writer enables her to draw these events into her story, so that seemingly disconnected experiences become woven seamlessly into her working life. In studying the relationships between the trees, air, earth and everything in between, she reflects on her own relationships, not only with other people but with the trees themselves. This interconnectivity is at the core of her writing ... the kind of story we need to be telling, a new way of communicating that the world desperately needs to hear. The idea of spirituality in science may seem paradoxical to some, but as we have learned from ecologists like Simard and Kimmerer, there is something missing in our study of nature. We have forgotten that we are part of the subjects we study, part of the forests that produce the air we breathe and the water we drink. We rely on nature’s rhythms and cycles far more than we rely on profit and technology. Simard’s book invites us to embrace this connection with the Earth ... This book has, at its centre, a simple tale of a woman who follows her intuition, views compassion as a strength, and dares to see the world differently. It is also a reminder to listen to our wilder selves, and to remember, with humility, how little we know of the complexities of the natural world.