About Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a multimedia reporter for the Adirondack Explorer. He can be reached at mike@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Mike’s newsletter

Reader Interactions


  1. Boreas says


    I envy your time spent with the old oak. Although 200 years old isn’t particularly “ancient” for an oak, it is certainly a survivor in it’s prime of life. It is what many of us would consider “mother tree”. In Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life Of Trees”, he discusses the intricacies and misconceptions about forests.

    One of the takeaway ideas of the book is that a healthy forest is not a collection of trees all struggling and competing to be come top dog, but rather a coalition of trees of all ages, along with unnoticed but vast mycorrhizal network (“wood-wide web”), all working together to keep the forest healthy and resilient. These “mother” trees actually help nourish and defend younger trees, slowing their above-ground growth and extending their youth almost indefinitely. They are in-waiting, not competing against the mother tree. This enables them to grow very dense tree rings making them exceptionally strong for their apparent age. They help send nutrients they cannot use to the mother tree – and the mother tree responds in kind (via the wood-wide web) when drought, fire, disease or other stresses threaten the forest or an individual tree. It is in the forest’s best interest to keep all of its inhabitants healthy.

    Thus, in a mature forest, the average age of the trees approaches their possible age limits in contrast to a re-forested tract where the trees have grown QUICKLY (with wide growth rings) but are not as strong, resilient, or healthy because they do not have the associated sub-surface networks to support them and their weaker trunks.

    When these mother trees eventually succumb to old age, they topple – opening up the canopy for the trees that may have been in-waiting for a century or more. Now they put on their growth spurt – supported by their strong trunks – and become a mother tree themselves an another century or two, supported nutritionally by the previous mother tree as it decomposes above and below ground.

    Humans have difficulty understanding forests because the lifespans are on dramatically different scales. They also do not understand the vast extent and intricacy of a forest community. They literally cannot see the forest for the trees. Spending time sitting under a mother tree for a day can reveal a great deal to anyone with an open mind. Watching the numerous animals that frequent the area under the canopy, what plants surround it, and imagining the enormous wood-wide web and its processes taking place under their seat.

    • Vanessa says

      Boreas, I bet you would really like the 2019 novel “The Overstory” – the author cites “The Hidden Life of Trees” as one of many inspirations for the novel.

      As a librarian and a frequent reader, I cannot stop raving about “The Overstory,” seriously, it’s that good. Check it out if you get a chance 🙂

  2. Vanessa says

    A more general comment: this was a beautifully written article, many kudos to Mike. What is also complex is that by writing about a place, you inevitably popularize it and drive usage there. I maintain the perhaps unpopular opinion that this isn’t universally bad either, or even usually bad. People just like to hike with a destination or particular goal or site to see. People also like to wander freely through the woods, but sometimes doing so off trail can lead to a whole new set of problems for the inexperienced.

    I wish we didn’t look down on the newer hikers who are probably gonna go on popular trails or go on a trail they read about in a magazine. To be clear – I don’t think this article is doing that! – but in our discussions on how to handle overuse, imo sometimes there is blatant discouragement of any use, which is a bummer.

  3. Mike Lynch says

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll have to read both of the books mentioned here. I already had The Overstory on my list. Good to know about The Hidden Life of Trees.

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