With a Little Help From My Friend

(Symbiotic Association)

You are witnessing the very beginning of the life of a Beech Tree. A life that could very well go on for 300 years or more.

This is a Beech Tree seedling, and during the process of its germination, the very first thing that happens is that it sends down a root which both anchors it to the ground, and prepares it to draw water, minerals and nutrients up from the soil.

Once that has happened, the 2 parts of the seed are lifted out of the seed case to become the ‘seed-leaves’ or cotyledons. That is what you are looking at here.

In those seed-leaves, which always look different to the real leaves of the tree, are all the nutrients that are needed to begin the germination process, and they support this little seedling until it starts to produce its own leaves. 

So here we have a young tree having established itself, and all appears to be going well, except for the fact that it appears to be right at the foot of its parent.

However, a seed can be carried very far away from its parent tree, which may have been growing very happily in its premium location for hundreds of years. Lets say that this seedling ends up growing in a less favorable soil.

Where’s it going to get the nutrients that it needs if its anchored to the spot?

The Beechwood Sickener Mushroom – Russula nobilis

Mother Nature has a great way of helping out under such circumstances.

An alliance between a fungus in the soil and the tree means that the tree can take nutrients from the fungus that it cannot access by itself in return for doing the same for the fungus. Each helps the other out.

This interaction is called a Symbiotic Association, and it is probably the most important natural phenomenon in the oxygen producing world – the world of plants.

Surprisingly, trees also communicate with others in their ‘tribe’ using these same pathways. Beech trees prefer to live closely with other Beech trees – their relatively smooth bark tells us that. If they preferred to live in isolation like Oak trees do, they would have a rough and highly fissured bark to put off grazing animals.

So if a Beech tree is under attack from Squirrels, it will communicate that fact to the others, which in turn will then start to produce substances which will put off the invaders. Clever eh?

So the next time you’re out and about and you see little mushrooms growing under the trees, just try to imagine the enormous unseen collaboration that is going on beneath your feet, and wonder at the amazing things that go on day after day without you ever having been aware of it.

And if you happen to be in a Beech Wood, and you carve you name in a tree trunk, keep your eyes open as you carry on your way —

All the other Beech trees will know what you did !!