Our Tall Standing Brothers – the trees

treesThe next time you see a group of trees, don’t just admire their beauty.  Say thank you for all they do for us.

Did you know trees communicate with one another?  They have a consciousness far beyond our awareness.

They also fight crime.  Read on.

Native American teachings on trees

“It’s amazing what you feel from a tree.  It can give us energy.  When we take long hikes in wooded areas, we often put our fingertips on the ends of the cedar or the pine needles.  Just standing there touching them, you’re going to feel energy come to you.

“Trees are emitting energy all the time.   Every needle of the tree, every leaf, is trying to make the atmosphere breathable for us.  That’s why my people have great respect for trees.  The trees are our relatives — we call them “tall standing brothers.”  Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother

  • Being in the presence of an old tree will bring much calm, deep thoughts and wisdom. Some are thousands of years old and are the elders of the earth.  They’ve seen a lot in that time and hold much wisdom. 
  • Trees provide us with fuel to warm our homes and cook our food, and we can build our homes from them. 
  • They spend their lives basking in the sun, and when they die and we use them as firewood, they represent the sun here on earth. 
  • Members of Bear Heart’s tribe would hang a bucket of water in a tree for a day to purify it, draping cheesecloth over it to keep debris from falling in. 
  • The cottonwood tree is used in the center of the prayer arbor in the Lakota Sundance ceremony.  The cottonwood in honored because it taught the Lakota how to make a tipi since its leaves are shaped in the conical pattern of a tipi. 
  • Also, if you cut an upper limb crosswise, inside will be a perfect five-pointed star, which represents the presence of the Great Spirit. 
  • Some spiritual traditions teach about the Tree of Life as a symbol of our transformation.  We bridge one level of our consciousness with the next, just as the tree bridges the heavens and earth. 
  • How have indigenous healers known for millennia which plants heal?  I believe that the plants communicated with them when they were out in nature on vision quests, and during prayer and meditation. 
  • Every ancient tradition had teachings about the gifts of trees.  Most trees have some magical association which has come about through communication with the tree nation. 
  • Deciduous trees symbolize the sacred hoop of life: leaves fall in the autumn and re-emerge in the spring. 
  • We use the term “family tree” to record our lineage.  But it raises the question where do our roots come from?  Who are our ancestors?  It’s important to know that because it will help you to know yourself. 

“Even the trees have spirits – everything has a spirit.” — Mary Hayes, Clayoquot

 The longevity of trees – they don’t die of old age!

Trees are the longest living organisms on earth.

  • The average tree in an urban/city area has a life expectancy of just 8 years. 
  • No tree dies of old age.  They are generally killed by insects, disease or people.  California Bristlecone Pines and giant Sequoias have been known to live 4,000 to 5,000 years. 
  • The oldest tree in the world is likely a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California:  over 5,000 years old!  This is a confirmed age. 
  • The “Sisters Olive Trees of Noah” in Lebanon is believed to be the oldest living olive tree estimated between 6,000 – 8,000 years old. 

Many of the oldest known trees may be older than their listed ages, because the oldest wood in the trees have already rotted away.

Trees are master communicators

Many trees and plants, when under attack by insects, produce an excess of chemicals in their leaves which reduces the nutritional value for the insects. It somehow also warns neighboring trees who then begin to produce the same chemical to protect themselves from attack.

One example is a tree in Africa that giraffes find tasty.  Whenever giraffes begin eating the leaves, within 15 minutes the taste of the leaves turn sour.  But even more  amazing is that the leaves of all the same trees within a half-mile radius also turn sour.  The first tree was somehow able to communicate to the other trees in the area about the impending danger.

There is such a close relationship among trees that when one dies, neighboring trees often die –there’s a chain reaction.

The Secret Life of Plants

The Secret Life of Plants: a Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird was published in 1989 and details how plants communicate with each other as well as with humans.

When it first came out, it was criticized as pseudoscience, but like all science pioneers, it turned out the authors were on to something.

  • Neurobiologists have since discovered that plants have rudimentary neural nets and the capacity for primary perceptions. 
  • The sundew plant (Drosera) can grasp a fly with incredible accuracy – better than a human can with a fly swatter. 
  • Some plants can detect when ants are approaching to steal their nectar and have mechanisms to close up when the ants approach. 
  • Numerous studies have shown that an empathic understanding of and connection to plants by a gardener tend to produce larger and healthier plants. 
  • The Findhorn experiment in Scotland had vegetables grow several times their usual size, in inhospitable ground, using love and encouragement. 
  • A lie-detector expert connected his galvanometer to a Dracaena massangeana and tried various stimuli to get a response from the plant. There was no response until he had the thought of burning the plant with an open flame – that brought about a dramatic spike in the graph. 
  • Sir Jagadis Chandra found that the responses exhibited by animal tissues were also found in those of plants.  This included plants becoming intoxicated when given shots of whiskey or gin: they swayed, passed out and revived with signs of a hangover.  [I don’t approve of getting plants drunk, but it is interesting]. 
  • A Canadian engineer broadcast Bach violin sonatas to a test plot of wheat and produced a crop that was 66% greater than average and with larger and heavier seeds. Other researchers conducted similar experiments with music which resulted in higher crop yields. 

The gifts of trees 

  • Trees are super crime fighters:  Where there are trees, there is much less crime.  Why is that?  Apparently everyone loves trees except criminals. Numerous studies have found that neighborhoods with big trees and parks are likely to see lower crime rates.  It may be more than the calming effect of the beauty of trees.  Trees emanate a peaceful energy that can’t help but affect those around them. 
  • Native Americans taught that trees are the lungs of mother earth, purifying the air.  The scientific reason is that trees regulate air quality through photosynthesis, absorbing nearly a ton of carbon dioxide in a lifetime.  Another way of putting it is that one tree can absorb as much carbon in a year as a car produces while driving 26,000 miles. 
  • A single tree produces about 260 pounds of oxygen in a year.  Two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four. 
  • Water originating in our national forests provides drinking water for over 3,400 communities and approximately 60 million individuals. 
  • Willow trees in one part of Sweden are used to clean sewage sludge.  The town spreads its waste around the trees, which then decompose and recycle it. 
  • Trees save us money: Shade trees can make buildings 20% cooler in the summer; they lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves. 
  • Well-maintained trees and shrubs can also increase property values by 14%. 
  • The average American uses about 750 pounds of paper every year, and 95% of homes are built using wood.  That means each American uses the equivalent of one 100-foot tall, 16” diameter tree every year for their paper and wood product needs. All the more reason to recycle. 
  • About 1/3 of the U.S.A. is covered by forests.  It used to be a greater percentage.  It’s said that at the time Columbus arrived in North America, a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River without touching ground because the tree coverage was so great. 
  • The tallest tree in the U.S. is a Coast Redwood in northern California’s Redwood National Part. It’s over 369 feet tall and over 2000 years old.
  • Trees cut down noise pollution by acting as sound barriers. 
  • Tree roots stabilize soil and prevent erosion. 
  • Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rainwater and protecting aquifers and watersheds. 
  • Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife. 
  • Trees receive an estimated 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil. 
  • Trees grow from the top, not the bottom.  A branch’s location on a tree will only move up the trunk a few inches in 1000 years. 
  • There are 20,000 species of trees in the world. India has the most species of trees, followed by the U.S. 
  • Trees can induce rainfall by cooling the land and transpiring water into the sky from their leaves. An acre of maple trees can put as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the air each day! 
  • Hospital patients have been proven to recover from surgery more quickly when there is a view of trees from their hospital bed. 
  • They improve air quality by filtering the air we breathe through removing dust and other particles.  Then rain washes the pollutants to the ground.  Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. 

And please think twice before cutting a tree down. I have a friend in California who is a master landscaper and his policy is that trees should only be taken down if diseased or in danger of falling and doing damage – a professional trim is most often all that’s needed. 

So the next time you walk by a tree, stop and admire it, and say thank you because they make our lives better in a hundred different ways. 


“We need to save those Elders who cannot speak for themselves — the trees.”  Haida Gawaii, Traditional Circle of Elders





Molly Larkin

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman”  and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com

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