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What's a Mother Tree?

13 May, 2022 | Posted by 1440 Multiversity

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What's a Mother Tree?

"A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it."
―Peter Wohlleben,The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate


The Mother Tree


If you've ever been to the 1440 campus, then you truly understand the amazing communal love for the majestic redwoods that cover our campus.


In addition to their physical presence that awes all of us, the presence of the redwoods is integrated into the very structures that sit beneath their beautiful boughs. Our largest auditorium is named Redwood, and the deck outside was actually built around the trees that were there first. And all the windows and doors that line Redwood allow for sublime glimpses of the forest all around.


Step off that deck and head down the stairs further into the woods (oh, it smells so good!) and you're going to find something else quite special: the Mother Tree of 1440.


This one specific redwood is the beginning of the grove it's surrounded by. Experts say the Mother Tree is around 1200 years old. She shades the amphitheater that we call Cathedral – it's a quiet place perfect for solitude, journaling, meditation, or a pleasant conversation with new friends.


She's Actually Working


The Mother Tree is thought of as the hub of the community that it grows in. She provides water and nutrients through fungal networks in the soil … and she's actually "talking" with the other trees.


Scientists discovered that these underground fungal networks, known as mycorrhizal networks, aren't only used to dispense food but also allow the trees to communicate with one another. These networks can be used to warn other trees about threats that might be incoming such as drought, insects, or disease.


In The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, author Peter Wohlleben writes:


We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community.


Like humans, trees need more than food and water to thrive. Their communities and networks are vastly important to the survival of their collective – and this is where a mother tree plays such a key role.


We like to think that these lessons of passing resilience to our neighbors and our kin are not only present in the narratives and science around the 1440 trees but in the very work done at 1440. Whether you're in a webinar, a program, or enjoying a little reflective time, you're part of a community of like-hearted people looking to help and sustain each other, passing passion and resilience through the network (in-person or virtual), and cultivating each of the 1,440 minutes in a day – just like the Mother Tree and her grove of redwoods.


In the vicinity of the 1440 Mother Tree, you'll find a sign with this inscription:


The Mother Tree: For more than 1,000 years, the Mother Tree – elder of this cathedral – has filtered nutrients and wisdom to the younger trees. Through underground root systems, she hosts conversations that increase the resilience of her entire community and remind us of our interconnectedness and shared resources.


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