Have you heard about about the ‘Wood Wide Web’? I hadn’t until a couple of years ago when I did a course in ecoliteracy with the environmental artist and educator Cathy Fitzgerald.
It’s not the internet but it is all about social networks. Social networks of plants, that is, and miles and miles of fungi. These underground fungi send out incredibly fine fungal ‘cables’ called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the roots of plants. The roots and fungi combine to form what is called a mycorrhiza and so, individual plants are joined to one another by a huge network: a vast, collaborative structure that has become known as the Wood Wide Web.
Collaborative? Well, the fungi take some of the plants’ sugars and the plants in turn, take in some nutrients that they couldn’t otherwise extract from the soil. But the story is much bigger than that. The fungal network allows plants to share resources between each other. Old trees can help young trees. The network even enables plants to send one another warnings. Greenfly alert! For instance, a plant that is under attack from greenfly can warn a neighbouring plant to raise its defensive response before the greenflies get to it.
So all this points to the notion that a forest might be better understood as a single superorganism rather than a group of individual trees and plants. It’s all connected – we’re all connected – and the world will live as one! Imagine.
The beautiful images on this post are by the artist Annika Berglund and they are part of the group show entitled: ‘Arbour Essences in Anthropocene Dublin’ at The Olivier Cornet Gallery at the moment. As part of the show, there will be a panel discussion tonight at 6.30pm at the gallery and everyone is welcome. The discussion will be chaired by curator and author Paddy Woodworth, and the panel will include Ciarán Fallon, Director of Coillte Nature, Matthew Jebb, Director of the National Botanic Gardens, Suzanne O’Connell, Landscape Architect with DCC and Catherine Cleary, Co-founder of Pocket Forests.
It should be a really interesting night!
I wood love to attend, l believe Paddy Woodworth is a real fun guy!
Hí Hí – bhí a fhios agam go luadh duine eicint an fear grinn
Excellent, however one of the red lines should be a little bit to the left, not sure which one🤔
indeed Kevin 🙂
Thank you for introducing me to Annika Berglund’s work! If you are a reader you might like to try Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life (2020) or an older book (2001) The Story of Yew by Guido Mina di Sospiro.
Thanks for the comment and info Ashley, eoin