I know I write a lot about how climate change is affecting the oceans, but in the next few weeks I would like to concentrate on trees.

My dad had a tree service when I was growing up. I used to go with him to give “estimates” on trees to be cut but many times he would end up talking people out of chopping down their trees. This does not seem to be a good business model, especially since this was the foundation of his business, but it worked for him. People knew if he took a tree down it was because it was absolutely necessary. He also spent a lot of time trimming trees and just looking at them. He could tell by touch if a tree was diseased. He started his business just as the Dutch elm disease was ravaging through the Midwest.

Dutch elm disease (DED) was first detected in the Netherlands in 1919. The first outbreak in North America occurred in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1930s. It struck trees in Lee and Scott counties in Iowa in the late ’50s but soon spread to every county in the state. The signs of disease were wilting leaves on one or more branches in the upper canopy of the tree. Once a branch had lost it leaves, it usually died quickly, according to the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources.

Mom would talk about Dad coming home in tears because he had to take down so many trees. There was one street that had been lined with beautiful Dutch elm trees until the disease spread from one tree to the next. Dad’s company was hired to take care of them and he could fell the diseased trees quickly. Whenever we drove down this road he would talk of how the street was once lined with majestic trees.

I write this as a background of how trees were at the center of my childhood

and how, when I read this study of trees considered as “social creatures,” I absolutely agreed.

According to an NPR KQED article titled “Trees Talk to Each Other,” ecologist Suzanne Simard stated that trees communicate with each other in cooperative ways – a lesson for humans, too.

She spoke about how trees are linked to trees near them through an underground network of fungi that resembles the neural networks in the brain.

“In one study, Simard watched as a Douglas fir that had been injured by insects appeared to send chemical warning signals to a ponderosa pine growing nearby. The pine tree then produced defense enzymes to protect against the insect,” according to the article.

Trees sharing information is important to the whole forest or at least to those trees near each other.

“In connecting with all the trees of different ages, [the mother trees] can actually facilitate the growth of these understory seedlings,” she said. “The seedlings will link into the network of the old trees and benefit from that huge uptake resource capacity. And the old trees would also pass a little bit of carbon and nutrients and water to the little seedlings, at crucial times in their lives, that actually help them survive,” she stated in the article.

In an article in titled “The Magical Relationship Between Fungi and Our Trees and Plants,” it stated, “… recent research has revealed that the relationship between fungi and trees is much more complex than previously thought. Fungi have long been known to form symbiotic relationships with trees, exchanging nutrients and helping trees absorb water. However, scientists have now discovered that these relationships extend beyond individual trees to form a complex network of underground communication and cooperation.”

There are even trees that supposedly walk. These rainforest trees are Socratea exorrhiza, aka the “walking palm.” These trees are in the tropical forests of Central and South America and supposedly “walk” from shade to sunlight by growing roots in the direction they want to travel. The old roots lift into the air and die. These trees have long, strange leg/roots and look like a cross between a Dr. Seuss story and the scary trees in Disney’s “Snow White” that reach out and grab you.

The point is trees are so much more than singular vegetation. They actually feel what is happening to their neighboring trees and help repair and support their neighbors. I think most of us in this area, where trees are so important, know deep inside that these are families of trees that surround us and that they should be respected and cared for in order to keep healthy our community of trees.

But we are now in a tug-of-war so to speak with trees. They are being “trimmed” by utility companies, many times aggressively, in the name of fire safety. So on one side of the tug is safety from fire, while pulling on the other side is some of the trees that are being trimmed to death, literally.

According to NOAA, there doesn’t seem to be much rain in the forecast, just a small chance of super light drizzle. The all-important Montrose Christmas Parade on Saturday will see cold temperatures with highs around 65 and lows near 45 … but no rain.