Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Rate this book
From the world's leading forest ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest--a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery.

Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she's been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron's Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.

Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths--that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.

Simard writes--in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways--how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies--and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.

Simard writes of her own life, born and raised into a logging world in the rainforests of British Columbia, of her days as a child spent cataloging the trees from the forest and how she came to love and respect them--embarking on a journey of discovery, and struggle. And as she writes of her scientific quest, she writes of her own journey--of love and loss, of observation and change, of risk and reward, making us understand how deeply human scientific inquiry exists beyond data and technology, that it is about understanding who we are and our place in the world, and, in writing of her own life, we come to see the true connectedness of the Mother Tree that nurtures the forest in the profound ways that families and human societies do, and how these inseparable bonds enable all our survival.

348 pages, Hardcover

First published May 4, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Suzanne Simard

6 books470 followers
She is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; and has been hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls in James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,458 (45%)
4 stars
3,651 (37%)
3 stars
1,326 (13%)
2 stars
278 (2%)
1 star
53 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,620 reviews
Profile Image for Emma.
482 reviews21 followers
June 20, 2021
So full disclosure - I discovered Suzanne Simard's work when I was in graduate school and it quickly became foundational to how I view the natural world and to my work as an environmental educator. It worked its way into multiple projects, including my thesis, and, at the time, I remember wishing more than anything that she had written a book. 5 years on, I woke up one day to find that she DID write that book BUT it's not out until May. And then I hustled my way over to Edelweiss, and I got to read it early!?!?!?!

So with the foundational hero caveat out there, I have to say that this is one of the best natural history books I have read in a LONG time. It reminds me of Braiding Sweetgrass, but a little more procedural in its science and also of Lab Girl, only less whiny and with scientific discoveries that blow your mind.

My favorite moments are when she takes the time to talk through how she set up and organized her early experiments. The "how the sausage is made" aspect is genuinely fascinating, and her renegade doggedness in pursuit of knowledge is palpable.

This is a book about science, but it is also a book about the quest to understand the world and a recognition that life is complex and varied and not easily defined and contained in a lab. Simard weaves her personal and professional history effortlessly into her work, which is (literally and figuratively) groundbreaking.

So what is this mind-blowing science I speak of? That part I almost don't want to give away because Simard excels at gently unfolding each progressive discovery until you want to run into the forest and do the same work! Essentially, her main work is in studying the ways in which trees connect to each-other through mycorrhizal fungi in forest soil, and how they actually "talk" to each-other and exchange nutrients in completely crazy ways.

I have a hunch that those who understand and love the science parts of the book may not resonate with her personal anecdotes and that those who love the personal stuff may get a little lost in the science side of things. That being said, I don't have a ton of sympathy for people who are not going to love this book because it is damn good and that is that.

If science isn't your thing, listen to her TED talk or the Radiolab podcast she participated in (From Sea to Shining Sea) first and then read this - having a grounding in her work first will help, and you don't want to miss out on this book! If the personal stuff bugs you, go read a scientific paper or something.

*I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
617 reviews338 followers
October 31, 2021
5 🌲🌳🍄🌳🌲
“When we see it, we understand it.
And when we understand it, we care about it.
And when we care about it, we’ll do something to help save it.”

Suzanne Simard

I admit the science and sometimes text book quality was sometimes challenging to me, especially because getting distracted or falling asleep is so easy with audios and the author has an especially soothing voice.
So I took it very slow, one chapter at a time, rewinding at times.
When finished I watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi on Netflix.
I was surprised at my emotional response. Tears from me are an endangered species.
Doubly surprised that Suzanne and the documentary left me with some hope, an almost extinct species in my world.
If reading this sounds interesting but daunting to you, I highly recommend the film or watching Simard’s Ted talk How trees talk to each other.
There are people out there who are trying to make a difference and we need to listen.
Profile Image for Katie.
1,142 reviews19 followers
August 30, 2021
I picked this up in an independent bookstore after being intrigued by the description on the interior flap. I hate to say it, but it was a slow slog for me. The first half of the book felt like it was seriously misrepresented. Somewhere in the middle it finally got around to more of the topics I was expecting, but still never really hit the mark for me. It read more as a memoir than a nature book. And it felt really weird that the author's background is in the lumber business, clear-cutting specifically, which is what a good portion of the book is about. I understand that a lot of science comes out of that business, but it was simply hard to read and not at all what I expected from the introductory material.

The second thing that made it a slow slog for me was the fact that it just isn't that well written. It is certainly readable, but the author tends to jump around a bit and ideas get a big jumbled at times. Sometimes within a single paragraph she will talk about her work, jump to her family in the present tense, and then throw in something from the past. It was confusing and felt like verbal whiplash at times. I wish an editor had cleaned more of that up. The author obviously tries to make her descriptions beautiful and evocative to express her love of the forest, but it just felt uncomfortable to me, as if she wasn't comfortable with it herself. By the end of the book I had the distinct impression that she was trying to write like Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book "Braiding Sweetgrass" and weaving together ideas of science, history, personal reflections, and motherhood. Unfortunately, it just wasn't done with the same amount of skill and ended up feeling a little clunky.

The third problem I noticed was that the author would spend pages and pages talking about her own life and study in generalized terms and then suddenly, without any warning, launch into a deep dive of scientific concepts and research procedures. There were no charts, images, diagrams, or anything to help with comprehension of these intense scientific discussions. I have some layman's background in the ideas she was presenting, so I more or less kept up with what she was saying, but even then it kind of made my eyes roll up into my head when she got going so suddenly.

Another odd theme I couldn't quite figure out was how despite being clearly freaked out by the dangerous sprays and radioactive materials she was handling she repeatedly failed to follow safety protocols or use safety equipment properly. I wasn't sure what to make of this, other than it lead up to her cancer diagnosis years later. It kind of felt like she was undermining her own credibility and ability to attend to details. Odd.

My final point is that in a time of serious discussion of the ways in which indigenous people in the Americas have been treated, she very lightly skims over these issues time and time again. From her own French family who settled on native lands to mentioning stories of the native people who lived on the lands she was studying (and which were being clear cut by the lumber companies) to a very brief mention of the Canadian government declaring a native group "extinct" so they could claim the resources of their lands, the author simply glosses over these items and moves on. Now I understand this is not really the book for a deep dive into these serious historical and racial issues, but the cavalier nature of how they are mentioned felt a little tone-deaf to me. Near the end, the author even talks briefly about how her research confirmed what many indigenous people already knew about how forests operate. But that's all she says. There is no further idea that their wisdom might somehow inform science or that they might have ideas of how to heal the forests. It just felt like the untold tragedy of indigenous lands being pillaged behind the told tragedy of the lumber companies destroying forests and ignoring the impacts on climate. The whole thing was rather depressing despite the happy stated intent of the book to tell the story of finding the "mother trees" and understanding the forests.

So, this was not a win for me. I appreciate the author's work and her dedication to her research. I did learn more about mycorrhizal fungi than I knew before. I also have a better understanding of how scientific research happens.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,785 reviews1,626 followers
May 5, 2021
In Finding the Mother Tree a world-leading expert shares her amazing story of discovering the communication that exists between trees, and shares her own story of family and grief. Dr. Suzanne Simard was born and raised in the rainforests of British Columbia and has forged a lifelong relationship of love and respect with the trees. This relationship was the driving force behind her decision to dedicate her life to better understanding the forest and the network that connects the plant life within. With humour, emotion, and the narrative drive of a lifelong storyteller, Dr. Simard takes readers on an intimate journey of groundbreaking scientific discovery. Linking her research to her personal experiences, she recounts her life's work uncovering the Wood Wide Web, the underground mycelium network that connects all the trees and plants within a forest.

It is a network that allows them to share not only nutrients, but information, all of which originates from the hubs called Mother Trees. Readers will journey with Dr. Simard into this massive experiment, from dramatic encounters with wildlife to the groundbreaking Aha moments in a lab, from learning how to utilize this network to promote plant growth to what this network can teach us about combatting climate change. Dramatic, funny, touching, and evocative, Finding the Mother Tree offers an intimate and personal look at discovery. This book is not about how we can save the trees, but about how the trees might actually save us. An exquisitely written, richly informative and utterly compelling hybrid of fascinating facts about the natural world all around us and personal memoir. An accessible, wonderful and eminently readable book. Highly recommended.
June 20, 2021
I am very interested in the subject matter of this book---essentially the interconnectedness of trees and plant life. But I found this book a very tough slog. First, I didn't expect a narrative about the author's family and personal life, which I found largely uninteresting although some of it provided context for her career choice and research path. In general, I found the writing style to be not to my taste, and it felt almost as if the book hadn't received much editorial attention. The last third of the book was more readable.
Profile Image for Nigel.
819 reviews93 followers
May 12, 2021
In brief - In the strange world we live in this is as important as it is powerful. I feel fortunate to have been able to read this book. I hope that its message resonates with generations to come.

In full
This book opens with Suzanne (the author) as a young forestry worker (seasonal) understanding that recently planted seedlings in a clear felled area of forestry were not doing well. The question in her mind is why. Nearby naturally developing seedlings are doing just fine. The book then goes back to her childhood and her family's long involvement in forestry in Canada. The scene is well set for this book.

While this is the author's first book she has had many academic papers published. She has devoted a large part of her life to the study of trees particularly those in Canada. The initial puzzlement about the fact that seedlings are not thriving leads to a number of issues with the approach to forestry management in Canada. While Suzanne's work has largely involved Canada her idea have spread. She is the person responsible for the idea of the "wood wide web". When I heard about this - some years back - the idea interested me. However I hadn't found the time to find out more until now.

Suzanne's devotion to understanding trees and their wellbeing is remarkable. From her initial questioning of why seedlings don't thrive she follows "threads" both literal and metaphorical in the course of this book. From this we find out far more about Mycorrhizal fungi and the interactions between trees and fungi in the soil. Each "answer" to her studies tends to lead to further questions and discoveries. These discoveries really are remarkable to me and so important.

I do have some small reservations about this book. For me personally I would have loved to have seen some maps showing where her work took place. I would have also liked more photos of trees, plants and wildlife too I guess. My brain would have found seeing some of the data relating to her experiments easier to understand in the form of tables rather than narratives.

Ultimately this book is both a personal biography and the results of a number of an academic studies. This combination may not suit everyone. As far as I am concerned this is a very important book. It shows just how little we really understand about our planet. It also shows our resistance to change particularly when it involves big business. From the tiniest parts of fungi on tree roots to the survival of our world - if that is not important I'm not sure what is.

Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,137 followers
Shelved as 'pass'
March 2, 2023
The interconnection of forests and fungi and how trees communicate and all that is a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, by 20% I know a lot more about the author's parents' marital issues, her grandparents' various physical damage from logging, and her brother's career as a rodeo rider. Meanwhile, all the stuff about trees and fungi is being presented in a kind of detective story way with the author slowly developing ideas and thinking about stuff in extremely academic terms, rather than just writing about her subject from her current position of expertise.

I'm going to guess that the publisher wanted all the rodeo and memoir stuff to humanise a scientific book, but you have to be a very good writer / have a very interesting family to persuade readers who've only bought your book to read about X subject that they want to read your family memoir alongside it.

DNF at 20% with some annoyance because this seems like a really interesting subject, and the stuff about commercial logging practices was good.
Profile Image for Judit.
184 reviews36 followers
June 29, 2021
“I had a message but didn’t yet know how to convey it in an engaging story”.
p. 125

I read the Overstory by Richard Powers a while ago, and my favorite character was the forest researcher lady who discovered that trees are interconnected, and can communicate with each other. So when I read that this is based on an actual scientist, and that she recently published a book about that very same research I was immediately interested, and bought it the first chance I got. This has been the biggest book purchase mistake I have made in my life. Because this book is quite possibly the most poorly written book I have ever read.

Most of the text is directly lifted from various research papers about forestry, and probably her master’s and doctoral dissertations, with some of the most poorly told and inane personal anecdotes ever added in. Random people keep popping up, just referred to with their first names, and you as the reader need to remember who that is from a caption of a photo 20 pages back. None of the scientific parts are explained in a way that is understandable for lay people, and make those parts of the book a complete waste.
And no, I couldn’t just look up the things I didn’t understand because the level at which they are discussed requires you to have a degree in biology or forestry.
I do not understand why this was published for a general audience. And I am baffled by the high reviews it has here as well. This is not a book that can be read by anyone. Far from it.
I wanted to love this book, but was instead upset at how distant, unwilling to explain, and boring it turned out to be.
Profile Image for Andrew Howdle.
470 reviews4 followers
June 15, 2021
Suzanne Simard's book is a worthwhile and fascinating read. As a book, however, it crosses genres and this isn't totally successful. Memoir and science are tricky elements to combine. Other admirable books read recently have struggled too. Autobiography tends to expose dull factuality and scientific objectivity can make the author's own life become dry.

Towards the close of Finding the Mother Tree, Simard contemplates a TEDyouth talk. Should she keep it scientific and plain (appear as an esteemed scientist) or anthropomorphise her subject (appear as a science communicator)? She decides to anthropomorphise her talk, for the sake of connectivity, and talk of trees as "mothers" with "children" and capable of forming protective "families." This decision highlights a central issue of Finding the Mother Tree. How to relate to the reader.

The first quarter of the book is absorbing. Simard describes the history of her family and their connection to logging and how this transmuted into her scientific passion for trees. Emotion and science fit together well. Then the book falters. The signs of this are an early talk on forestry. The talk is described, but without characterisation: the purpose of the talk was to get research across. And the book starts to replicate this large scale. Experiment after experiment is described, fact after fact, with bits of life thrown in -- a narrow escape from forest bears. There becomes a point where measuring trees, and knowing their girth in centimetres, becomes dull. Without a doubt, the MA and Ph.D thesis material was groundbreaking. Unfortunately, it does not trailblaze the world of prose. The final quarter of the book returns to the opening section. Simard's cancer diagnosis, a result of her experiments at a time when safety procedures were not so stringent, develops a poetic bond between her and the natural world, mother nature. In many ways, the book plays out what lies behind her research. Approaches to forestry were male and patriarchal. The approach of Simard, which is based on co-operation rather than competition and supremacy (good old patriarchal concepts), was against the norm. The more Simard writes with eco-feminism in mind the stronger her book becomes for the reader because it grows out of her values and her life.

Ultimately, the book presents Simard as a courageous, tenacious, and caring scientist of extraordinary intelligence. But Finding the Mother Tree is unbalanced and unsure if it is being written for the scientific community or the common reader.
194 reviews18 followers
November 8, 2021
I have to admit I'm a true nemophile and happiest and most at peace when surrounded by natural forests and woodlands. I find trees fascinating, especially their wisdom, their way of connecting, building communities and protecting and nourishing each other. I had read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben a couple of years ago, which was concise and full facts, insights and included beautiful photographs of various trees and forests and also I loved Overstory by Richard Powers. It is fascinating that this author, Suzanne Simard, was a driving force and source of inspiration behind both of those books. Whilst this book was in places more scientific than the others I enjoyed it. This lovely book provided additional insights to the lives of trees, and especially the role of the Mother Trees with their families interwoven with the biography of the author and the role of her family forestry. Some beautiful photographs in this book, but I would have like some more, especially when I considered previous books on similar topic. Overall I found the book to be highly enjoyable, and I would recommend it to tree lovers everywhere. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
Profile Image for Christine.
765 reviews18 followers
May 18, 2021
It's impossible for me to not compare this book to Robin Wall Kimmerer's "Braiding Sweetgrass", a book that I found deeply impactful. This book does not meet those same standards but I must still give it 4 stars because we absolutely need more people in the world like Robin Wall Kimmerer and Suzanne Simard (and Richard Powers, and others!) who are teaching us, reminding us, begging us to recognize that nature is wise, forests are wise, the earth is wise and that human beings are not the most important thing on the planet. We might be smart, but we're not nearly as smart as we think we are. It's not all about humans. That egocentric attitude will be our downfall. But, I suppose, regardless of where you think you sit (at the top of the flagpole, or a piece of the whole) the earth is our house, and why not take good care of our house?
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
651 reviews86 followers
July 4, 2021
A few years ago I read The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World and it transformed the way I saw trees and forests. Well, Suzanne Simard is the scientist behind a lot of the discoveries described in Peter Wohlleben's book.

Finding the Mother Tree is part memoir and part biology/forest ecology. She tells stories about her upbringing, her love for trees, the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated job, the challenge of being a scientist and a mother. Her work proved that clearcutting damaged the forest health. She fought against hostile and powerful men in Canadian forestry who did want to be challenged by a woman. Suzanne Simard changed our relationship to trees.

The book started slow and it took me a while to get into it, but it is totally worthwhile.
Profile Image for jeremy.
1,124 reviews279 followers
March 7, 2021
i can't tell if my blood is in the trees or if the trees are in my blood.
melding science and memoir, suzanne simard's finding the mother tree recounts her remarkable research into mycorrhizal networks, hub trees, and interspecies cooperation and reciprocity. simard, a professor and forest ecologist (and inspiration for the dendrologist character in richard powers' pulitzer prize-winning novel, the overstory), expounds upon the details and discoveries of her decades-long arboreal explorations, chronicling it alongside her own personal story full of challenge and triumph.

the science of fungal networks, symbiotic communication, and interconnected habitats is wholly fascinating and simard is an excellent educator. ancient and indigenous communities, while lacking the supportive science, seemed to better understand (or, at the least, better observe, intuit, and respect) the interdependencies of species and healthy ecosystems (which the author herself acknowledges), so the important work of people like simard will hopefully help encourage a greater recognition of the significance of ecological balance (or whatever balance can even be restored in our anthropocene).

finding the mother tree, beyond its compelling scientific and autobiographical accounts, is also somewhat of an indictment of the status quo, given how hard it was for simard and her work to be taken seriously in a hierarchical field hampered by governmental bureaucracy and industrial greed (and, of course, misogyny).
if the mycorrhizal network is a facsimile of a neural network, the molecules moving among trees could be as sharp as the electrochemical impulses between neurons, the brain chemistry that allows us to think and communicate. is it possible that the trees are as perceptive of their neighbors as we are of our own thoughts and moods? even more, are the social interactions between trees as influential on their shared reality as that of two people engaged in conversation? can trees discern as quickly as we can? can they continuously gauge, adjust, and regulate based on their signals and interactions, just as we do?
Profile Image for Steve.
924 reviews135 followers
February 12, 2023
Wow! ... What a terrific book.

So many things to appreciate: first and foremost, the book is interesting, thought-provoking, informative, and, quite simply, a pleasure to read. And the inclusion of a generous volume of nicely placed photos ... photos worth pausing for ... truly enhances the reading experience. And the author's life ... from her roots (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) to her journey to overcoming the hurdles she faced to her discoveries and her impact, well, this is simply extraordinary.

I wish I'd read it sooner, but I'm glad I eventually happened upon it. I strongly recommend it.

Reader's nugget of appreciation: The author calls out and effusively, thoughtfully, thanks her "writing coach," Katherine Vaz. As a consumer and reader, I'll tip my hat to the author for doing so and to the "coach" for whatever role she played in transforming a remarkable life, career, story, and concept into such a compelling, engaging whole.

Quirky perspective: As an (admittedly very different type of) academic who also made the career transition on the later side, I tip my hat and stand in awe. I'd like to think that universities exist to create platforms for people, nay geniuses and visionaries, like the author, to open minds and change the world. Kudos to the University of British Columbia for having the good sense to identify and foster such an extraordinary talent!

For a wonderful article about the author, and her connection to Powers' prize winning The Overstory (which I also strongly recommend) and the blockbuster movie Avatar,, ... here's one of many, from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,080 reviews108 followers
June 13, 2022
This is an unusual non-fic popular science book. The author (and narrator of the audio version) is Suzanne Simard, who became known to the general public after her article about communication between trees appeared in Nature in 1997, introducing the term ‘the wood-wide web’. I read it as a part of monthly reading for June 2022 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

It isn’t the usual pop-sci book and I admit, it irked me at the start, but later I decided that maybe the author was right, mixing here science and her personal biography. So, in addition to her discoveries we, readers, also follow her biography, getting info about her family, including tragic deaths of her family’s members, her illness, her husband and daughters.

She started her career as an experimenter in the Canadian Forest Service. In the 1970s and 80s they tried to find a way to restore forests after wood cutting and went following in the path of the agricultural green revolution employing pesticides, fertilizers, and high-yield crop varieties, were finding that these conditions spawned the fastest-growing crops, and the British Columbia policy folks believed they could copy this to achieve the highest potential for pine growth. She guessed (correctly) that monocultures may actually weaken forests.

It is interesting to think how can we make experiments with trees – after all a lot of trees now feeding the lumber industry may be a century or even older – most scientists cannot allow spending their whole life on an experiment. So experiment design and careful exaggerations based on available few data points are paramount. In this book, she spends quite a lot of time giving details on the design, which is more usual for academic papers than pop-sci books. However, she does it quite accessible to the general public, like me.

Several of her main findings:
Older trees (Mother trees) care for their young, supplying the with minerals, carbon, nitrogen, and water; they do it more actively if their own existence is threatened, e.g. by bug infestation. Trees disperse most of their seeds in their small local area, meaning that many individuals in an immediate neighborhood are related. These parent trees shared some of the genes of the trees around them, and sharing carbon to increase the survival of their seedlings.
Trees of different species (e.g. alder and pine, paper birch and Douglas firs) can share/trade water and nutrients, so while alder seems to be leaving very little water in August for use by the pine seedlings, the alder uses tons of water to fuel the transformation of nitrogen to ammonium. The soil data show that the alder releases a lot of nitrogen back to the soil when its leaves senesced and decomposed in the fall. The pine roots could then snatch up the released nitrogen, so alder ‘pays’ for the water.
Forests are complex adaptive systems, comprised of many species that adjust and learn, that include legacies such as old trees and seed banks and logs, and these parts interact in intricate dynamic networks, with information feedbacks and self-organization. Systems-level properties emerge from this that add up to more than the sum of the parts. The properties of an ecosystem breathe with health, productivity, beauty, spirit. Clean air, clean water, fertile soil. The forest is wired for healing in this way, and we can help if we follow her lead.

A very interesting and unusual pop-sci book.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
91 reviews12 followers
December 30, 2021
I have admired Dr. Suzanne Simard for a while now, and was very excited to read this book. Her work is incredibly important, and I encourage everyone to watch her TED Talk from 2016 on How trees talk to each other. It is under 20 minutes and changed how I view forests.


However, this book is WAY too technical for general audiences. The amount of details on her experiments were, I'm sure, incredibly interesting and important for those in the field. Sometimes it felt as if I was reading an academic journal. This was disappointing, because to make this very crucial information reach wider audiences, it should not be so dry. Of course 'tree lovers' will be reading this book - the point is to get new people to open their eyes and consider things they otherwise wouldn't.

For those looking to learn more about forests, I would first recommend The Hidden Life of Trees (in which Suzanne's research is also featured). This is factual, direct, but not overly detailed. It also does not combine a memoir aspect to it. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

The Mother Tree project is also a great resource.
Profile Image for Amanja.
531 reviews53 followers
April 15, 2022
I love a good memoir, I love a good science nonfiction book. Finding the Mother Tree is a combination of both that tells the story of a researcher and her research but doesn't get deep enough into the scientific discoveries.

I picked up this book expecting to learn about how trees and other plant life communicate with each other, that's how it was sold to me at least. It's far more on the memoir side than the educational side. Author Simard does have some interesting scientific lessons to give the reader but she focuses much more on her struggle within her male dominated field.

To continue to the full review please visit https://amanjareads.com/2022/04/07/fi... in a new tab)
Profile Image for martucha czyta.
257 reviews23 followers
December 27, 2021
Pokochałam tę książkę, bezapelacyjny ulubieniec tego roku❤️

Od jakiegoś czasu zastanawiałam się jaką książkę dać na pierwsze miejsce w rankingu najlepszych książek 2021 roku. Po przeczytaniu „ W poszukiwaniu matki drzew” nie mam już tego problemu i to właśnie ta książka jest moim niekwestionowanym faworytem. Przepadłam w niej bez końca. Niesamowicie fascynująca i wartościowa lektura. Podczas czytania towarzyszyło mi mnóstwo emocji od radości po absolutny smutek i łzy. Bardzo lubię czytać książki o kobietach naukowcach, popularyzatorkach nauki, jest to niesamowicie inspirujące. Pierwszą taką książką była biografia Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej, którą przeczytałam w gimnazjum.
Suzanne Simard połączyła opowieści i wspomnienia ze swojego życia z badaniami, które prowadziła. Jej rodzina miała powiązania z leśnictwem od pokoleń. Sama znalazła pracę w tej branży i właśnie wtedy zauważyła, że sposób zalesiania, który stosowano w firmie leśnej w której pracowała, tak naprawdę nie przynosi rezultatów. Próba odkrycia rozwiązania tego problemu popchnęła ją do rozpoczęcia kariery naukowej. Musiała niestety borykać się ze złą opinią na temat jej badań w środowisku akademickim, co wiązało się również z negatywnymi recenzjami na temat jej publikacji naukowych. Podziwiam jej wytrwałość w obliczu mężczyzn o większych wpływach w służbie leśnej. Simard bez wątpienia należy do zdeterminowanych i pełnych zapału naukowców. Jej badania pozwoliły zrozumieć mechanizmy interakcji między drzewami przy pomocy systemów korzeniowych. Ciężko sobie wyobrazić ile musiała przeprowadzić eksperymentów i badań terenowych, aby odkryć tyle niesamowitych rzeczy, m.in. to, że las powstaje dzięki współpracy, a nie konkurencji.
Nie jest to szybka i łatwa lektura, czasem można zgubić się w terminologii, ale jeszcze więcej można się nauczyć, polecam Wam ją z całego serca.
Profile Image for Karyn.
204 reviews
September 1, 2022
Finding the mother tree explores a topic that has interested me for quite some time. The author is meticulous and thorough in presenting her material of expertise, which may have been more than I was willing to read. For those readers with more patience than me for intricate details of scientific pursuit.
17 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2021
A powerful story, stunning science, but in desperate need of an editor.
Profile Image for Boy Blue.
446 reviews66 followers
June 20, 2022
Like many others I came to Suzanne Simard and her work by way of Peter Wohlleben. She of the mychorizae and the wood wide web, the mother tree of forest ecology. I've even read The Overstory which has a character based on her. Having read so much of her work third hand I was ecstatic to finally read it straight from her pen.

Could you get any more romantic than trees talking to each other, the forest is alive! It's like Ursula le Guin's greatest fantasies have actually come true.

Unfortunately, with non-fiction I sometimes feel very much like a gold prospector. I find my patch which is the book, and start digging through the pages, panning the content in the river of my time for traces of gold and even some nuggets if I'm lucky.

Well this book involves an awful lot of panning for not a huge yield of gold. It probably should be made more clear that this is a biography as much as it is a work of science. In fact it's very heavy on biography at the start and very light on science. The reason being, you follow Simard's growth from her earliest years all the way through to the present day. Imagine a step by step account of Einstein from his potty training, through his time at primary school, his first love etc and you don't get to the juicy stuff, the bit that makes him different, the reason to read him, until much later. What's worse is that you have to follow all of Simard's dead ends and naiveite as she herself experienced it.

I give a huge amount of credit to Simard for not writing a hagiography of herself but man she did some silly things and it is in many ways surprising she's still alive. I should also say if you're not up for a biography then you'd be better to skip this book. There will be many who are uplifted by the way Simard deals with the death of her brother, or her fight with cancer but as cold and heartless as it makes me feel, I wasn't reading this book for those moments. I want to learn what she knows that no one else does and there's certainly a lot of that.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Simard's work or modern science on forest ecology. The trees all work together and communicate with each other through a vast mycorrhizal network (basically a web of fungus). Through this network they trade resources and send warnings to each other. Basically the forest works together. The Pinnacle of Simard's research has been about Mother trees, which are the oldest trees in the forest who support and communicate through the web with hundreds of offspring. They're the hub of the network and provide resources to their offspring even after their death.

Simard loses both the foresters she used to work with and probably some of her reading audience where she assigns agency and personalities to the trees. Her alignment of her own position as a mother with these mother trees is a great way for her to conceptualise things and it certainly makes her message easy to understand but I had a nagging question throughout the book that I just wish I could have a brief conversation with her to find out if she's checked to make sure that an alternate theory isn't true.

While Simard believes that the trees are communicating and sharing, I wonder whether it isn't the fungal layer that is farming the trees. That is to say the fungal layer is deciding what to pass where, it is nurturing and growing the trees like livestock. Hence why it shares resources from heavy photosynthesisers like birch with Douglas Firs during the summer months, knowing it will be able to extract returns from the firs in the cruel winter months. The fungus also shares the trees messages because they serve its purpose of running the largest and most resilient network or farm. My question therefore is, are the trees the agent or are they just the livestock and the fungus is the agent?

Simard does a stint at the beginning of her career with the forestry service but leaves it for the world of academia. She's also pushed out because it's a boys club and because her ideas don't fit with the orthodoxy. Even later, her ideas are not well received by the forestry service and they continue to clear cut and do all sorts of destructive things that she advises against. I really wanted her to re-visit both the people she worked with and the areas they destroyed later in the book. I want to know that Canada's forestry system has improved. It's briefly mentioned they halved pesticide usage but that's about it.

So, would I recommend this book. Yes, if you're into forest ecology. If however, this is your first foray then you'd be much better to start with Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees.

I also would have loved some categorised pictures of the trees she was talking about and more shots of her field work than trees in mist.

Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir

Paper Birch

Lodgepole Pine
Lodgepole Pine
Lodgepole Pine

Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa Pine

Red Cedar
Red Cedar

Red Alder
Red Alder
Red Alder
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,637 reviews329 followers
April 12, 2022
I'd have sworn I wrote something on this interesting scientific autobiography. I hope it's not lost! I'll look. More like 3.5 stars, and start with the Nature review.

Good review in NATURE: https://www.nature.com/articles/d4158...
"In 1997, ecologist Suzanne Simard made the cover of Nature with the discovery of a subterranean lace of tree roots and fungal filaments, or hyphae, in British Columbia (S. Simard et al. Nature 388, 579–582; 1997). It was “a network as brilliant as a Persian rug”, she recalls in her memoir Finding the Mother Tree — a network through which multiple tree species were exchanging carbon. The trees were cooperating.

The discovery of this fungal network, or ‘wood wide web’, as it came to be known, upended a dominant scientific narrative — that competition is the primary force shaping forests. Forest ecology is instead a much more nuanced dance, in which species sometimes fight and sometimes get along. This calls into question the way that most foresters manage trees. Clear-cutting, weeding and planting single species in well-spaced rows makes sense only if trees do best when they have all the resources they need to themselves."
Profile Image for Mark Warren.
Author 21 books138 followers
November 28, 2021
Everything that you have read lately about underground communication and sharing of nutrients by trees of varying species hinge upon the work of Suzanne Simard. Her discovery of fungal networks in the forest takes its cue from native people of the Northwest. The resulting experiments she ran take the reader along the path of discovery to understand how we know what we now know. Her book is most appealing because it is written on a personal level, following her pursuits, relationships and family life. She is a young female forester of Canada who had to swim upstream in the male-dominated forestry agencies. Her book will be a great inspiration to women and a fascinating narrative for anyone interested in forest ecology. This is a must-read for all naturalists, scientists, loggers, foresters, teachers, and park rangers.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,105 reviews52 followers
November 25, 2022
A truly profound and fascinating book. The author is an expert on forests - specifically Mycorrhizal interspecies fungal networks and their relationship to mother trees. Simard explains scientifically why these networks are so vital to healthy forests and to their optimal growth or re-growth during forestation. She goes on to explain what happens during clearcutting and how some fungal species are symbiotic to more than one tree species. These fungal networks can actually spread carbon from one healthy tree species to another stressed tree even when it is not the same species.

5 stars. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Celia.
1,193 reviews152 followers
December 11, 2022
A beautiful mixture of science and memoir.

I think very few people know how fragile our forests are.

Suzanne is here to teach us and how the trees support each other.

Loved the book and the audible. Sometimes a little too technical for me, though.

4 stars
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,151 reviews266 followers
May 23, 2021
Let me say at the outset that this is a vital book, which has opened up to me, and no doubt to many others, an important aspect of the ecology of trees that will have far-reaching consequences for the planet. Suzanne Simard, whilst working in the forests of Canada, made the discovery that trees seem to possess complex information “superhighways” in their roots that allow them to share information, and for older trees to pass on knowledge to younger ones. This discovery has led to a revolution in how scientists view trees and forests, some even suggesting that trees have cognitive abilities. What does seem certain is that there is a relationship between tree roots and fungi called mycorrhizae, which serves as the means of communication between trees. Fascinating stuff, and most of the time I was gripped by the narrative of Simard’s research both in and out of the lab. However, I have to admit that the detailed science was occasionally too much for me and I found my attention wavering. My fault rather than the book’s, perhaps, but I could have done with “A Finding the Mother Tree for Dummies” version. However, the book is pretty much required reading for anyone concerned with the fate of our planet and the trees that we need so desperately, and there are plenty of TED talks and videos to explore the subject further.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,660 reviews26 followers
June 7, 2021
Simard's story is remarkable. From a family of Canadian loggers, she went on to work for the forest service in Canada, and later took an academic position in British Columbia. There were a lot of very "sciency" descriptions and many unfamiliar terms. However, as a scientist, she trots out data, and significant amounts of it, to demonstrate her research findings. As a researcher in the fields of education and linguistics, and someone who taught research methods to graduate students for over 25 years, I understood this approach. But it may not be for everyone.

We see how academia makes unrealistic demands on faculty, without paying them enough. Without scientists like Simard, with drive, and determination to discover new facts, many aspects of life on this planet would be doomed. Her persistence in the face of males with more power and influence in the forestry service, was hard to imagine. No matter how often she presented reams of data that illustrated certain policies were not only harming the forest, but hurting the bottom line, she was insulted and undermined. Ironically, as an employee of the forest service, she was prohibited from criticizing any of their policies. This was used to shut down her findings that suggested certain policies should be changed. Academia offered her protection but as a woman scientist, she still lacked support at critical junctures.

She tells about the toll her work took on her family, marriage, and health. This aspect of the book was an important balance to the scientific details. Most important is that her findings have changed the direction of forestry. I was most fascinated that she found evidence (research never proves anything, but instead collects a lot of evidence that something is true) that parallels the beliefs on Northwestern US and western Canadian indigenous people. It is fascinating and for me it was one of the most powerful messages of the book.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,133 reviews
April 27, 2022
Her family have always worked with the forest originally by logging parts of it and sending the vast trunks downriver. She joined the forest service and it was there that she first noticed that some trees that had been planned were really not doing well at all. She checked them and they had been planted to the specification laid out, these had been drawn up to ensure even growth of the trees, but they were dying. Yet nearby were trees in a patch of ground that was in rude health. What was going on?

In other parts of the forest, she would find seedlings growing happily under larger trees that seemed to be existing on almost no water, and yet elsewhere on new plantations, small trees were not getting the water and nutrients that they needed. She did not know how this was happening and working out why they were dying would consume her completely.

This book is the journey of that discovery, how she used radioactive carbon isotopes to see how water and nutrients were passed between trees in a healthy forest and what place the networks of mycelium played in the process.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

I thought that this was very good indeed. She is a brilliant scientist and a good communicator. The work that she has done in investigating the way that mycelium connects between the same species of trees and very different species helps them both to live better. But tangled in this book is the story of her life and her battle with cancer and the fight she had with the forestry establishment and vested interests to get her research taken seriously. It is a seriously good read.
Profile Image for David.
426 reviews
August 1, 2021
This book is part biography, part a study of trees, part biography, and another part biography. In one sense, the biography parts were valuable in describing how a young woman managed to make bonified scientific discoveries, get published in the prestigious journal Nature, and still had to fight to have her findings recognized by the male-dominated forestry industry. In another sense, it was less about trees and the actual discoveries about the science behind forest communities, and more about… well, her personal life. While her constituents, particularly the male variety, are rightly discredited for letting profit and bias blind them to new discoveries that falsified their desired end of continuing “free-to-grow” silviculture practices, she also disclosed her own personal inclinations of what some might describe as tree-hugging sentimentalism, not the dispassionate execution of science (if such a thing is actually possible). Since I have no expertise in the subject matter, I have only to take her word for it and the fact that she was published in Nature. This book is not like The Hidden Life of Trees (Peter Wohlleben), which is more tree focused, nor is it a riveting biography like The Invention of Nature (a biography of the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt who essentially discovered the interconnectedness of nature). But I will salute her courage and accomplishments.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,421 reviews393 followers
September 7, 2022
I really enjoyed this one!

Normally I'm not the biggest fan of memoir meets science (or memoir meets history), as I tend to find the memoir part overshadows the point of the book. Here, the two weave together, as interconnected as the trees and fungi and animals and other plants within a forest.

Both coming out and coming home, and also a discovery of the interconnectivity of trees and learning to look at systems instead of specific individuals (something Simard makes sure to note that Indigenous communities have long known and advocated for), and for finding a way to have a sustainable forest. It's also a story of a woman working in a male-dominated environment, something that really hit home with me.

Anywho, a book on trees, by a daughter of loggers who lived in Oregon. And as a daughter of loggers who lived in Oregon, I greatly appreciated this book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,620 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.