Finding the Mother Tree

Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard (2021)

            Part of the master gardener’s experience is a heightened awakening to the complexities of relationships in the plant world, and how we can explore that and broaden our own relationship with life and the world. This book is a well-merited and greatly enjoyed celebration of our curiosity.

            Reading this book is like a series of coffees with a bright and curious friend who thrives on looking into the unanswered questions of how plants grow and how rich the world is in relationships.

            Simard, now a professor of ecology at the University of British Columbia, is the third generation of loggers and farmers. Her childhood curiosity and fascination with forests led her to pursue a career in forestry and ecology.  She struggled with the established forest practices of clearcutting and indiscriminate spraying, and began researching the role of various fungal networks (mycorrizae). Her writing engaged me and I too became curious about fungus in the forest. I found it hard to put the book down. 

            She takes us to the forest and her laboratory, and invites us into her research and analysis, sharing the thrill of discovery and the development of her thinking.  An engaging writer, she also weaves in her family life and her struggles with established science and industrial practices.  Part memoir, part heroic tale, part mystery, and part botanical adventure and intrigue, the book is hard to put down. She fashions a compelling read and an intimate autobiography. 

            This book is intriguing on a number of levels, and you come away with a new understanding of ecology, climate change, and the complexity of nature.  This is also a celebration of one’s curiosity and our emotional connections to the earth and other living beings. 

              “Finding the Mother Tree promises to change our understanding about what is really going on when a tree falls in the forest, and other pressing mysteries of the natural world.” — Michael Pollan

~ Book Review by Neal Lemery

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