Trees Sleep? by Sara Wright

This post follows last week’s post: The Forest Has a Heart?

In 2016, Zlinszky (Zlinszky/Molnar/Barfod) and his team released another study demonstrating that birch trees go to sleep at night (now we know that all trees – at least all the trees that have been studied so far – do sleep at night).

Trees follow circadian cycles responding primarily to light and darkness on a daily cycle. The researchers believe the dropping of birch branches before dawn is caused by a decrease in the tree’s internal water pressure while the trees rest. With no photosynthesis at night to drive the conversion of sunlight into simple sugars, trees are  conserving energy by relaxing branches that would otherwise be angled towards the sun. Trees increase their transpiration during the morning, decreasing it during the afternoon and into the night. There is a change in the diameter of the trunk or stem that produces a slow pulse. During the evening and the night tree water use is declining, while at the same time, the stem begins to expand again as it refills with water.

When trees drop their branches and leaves its because they’re sleeping. They enter their own type of circadian rhythm known as circadian leaf movement, following their own internal tree clock.

Movement patterns followed an 8 to 12 cycle, a periodic movement between 2 – 6 hours and a combination of the two.

As we know, plants need water to photosynthesize glucose, the basic building block from which their more complex molecules are formed. For trees, this means drawing water from the roots to the leaves. This takes place during daylight hours.

The movement has to be connected to variations in water pressure within the plants, and this effectively means that the tree is pumping fluids continuously. Water transport is not just a steady-state flow, as was previously assumed; changing water pressure is the norm although the trees continue to pulse throughout the night as tree trunks shrink and expand.

The work is just one example of a growing body of literature indicating that trees have lives that are more similar to ours than we could have ever imagined. When we mindlessly destroy trees we are destroying a whole ecosystem and a part of ourselves in the process because we are all related through our genetic make up. A sobering thought, for some.

Not Seeing the Trees for the Wood

Source: Technology Networks

Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Eco-systems, Ecofeminism, General, Nature

Tags: ,

9 replies

  1. I love knowing more about the lives of our friends, neighbors, and kin, the trees. Thank you, Sara!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Elizabeth – I love learning about these “Beings” I have loved all my life…. we could learn so much from trees if we began paying attention…and I always think of the mythological connection between women and trees – how women do ritual in groves – how we shapeshift into one another…. I think many women have known for a very long time that these interconnections between us are profound – in this time of global crisis we would do well to start listening…as Richard Powers says “what we need to develop is a plant consciousness – one that supports community and not commodity.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Brava! Of course we’re kin to trees. Everything on our blessed mother planet is kin, though sometimes distant cousins. Trees do a lot to take care of people. And what do people do? Cut them down. Clearcut forests. Not all people, of course, but way too many.

    I’m glad trees sleep. These days, I’m not getting enough sleep. Maybe I should learn to photosynthesize?? Well, it’s a thought. Thanks for writing about trees.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Like You Barbara I do not sleep well in spring – every year I repeat this cycle – is this true for you too – or is lack of sleep due for other reasons?

    It interests me that trees not only sleep but because they lower their vibrations at night and exude bio – chemicals that lower our blood pressure and relax us they help us sleep too. This time of year they are ramping up photosynthesis/transpiration/budding etc as the sun gets stronger so there is a higher vibration to deal with… and this creates real physical effects that we can feel – they sleep less too…. new age folk would have us believe that “higher vibrations” are desirable but living in the fast lane is problematic for many reasons…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have spring allergies that bother me day and night. Also, like most rational people, I’m worried about how the world will survive the current pandemic. (BTW, my post for the first Sunday in April is brief reviews of two stunning novels about people dealing with epidemics and pandemics.) There’s a huge palm tree outside my bedroom window and a many-branched tree outside with window behind my PC. I wonder if these trees sleep and if I should pay more attention. And who needs higher vibrations? I just want to relax and sleep. Maybe take a nap. Do trees ever take naps? (Is this a silly question?) Again, Sara, thanks for writing so thoughtfully about trees.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No question is silly Barbara – you know that. YES ABSOLUTELY YOUR PALM TREE SLEEPS. I personally would ask that tree about how you might sleep more peacefully – I’m not kidding here – As far as I know trees don’t take actual naps unless you consider that the bulk of transpiration takes place in the morning hours – hmmm I’m thinking out loud here – so I would answer yes to this question after all – and once the temperature hits 100 degrees all photosynthesis ceases – so the warmer the climate the more a tree slows slows down – thanks for asking this question. I hadn’t considered it before…
        By the way trees DEFINITELY do not thrive in higher vibratory mode around the clock 365 days a year…. maybe we could learn something here..

        I am sorry about your allergies – I never had them until I came to the southwest and I hate them – horrible headaches – ugh – One thing that I do to help is to burn pure Balsam oil ( a kind of evergreen if you don’t know) in a small room – it helps a lot with congestion and there are many benefits…

        As for the pandemic – it’s frightening – more so because of the panic –

        I am anxiously awaiting your post…

        and glad you like the tree post.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for this. I will share it with my husband who is creating a tree symphony. He loved The OverStory, that I’ve heard in the parts that he chose to read outloud to me. Your post is fodder for meditations on inter-connectivity, especially now when even isolation requires the co-operation of others. I wonder how you think about connectivity and the corona virus? We certainly are its guesthouse at the moment. Is that a ceiba tree in the photo? Ceiba tree shows up in the fictional Maya Chronicles I am writing. They can be age to three hundred years, right? So beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “The Overstory” was the most powerful novel (I don’t read many) I have read in years and I highly recommend it. If you are interested in interconnectivity I suggest you visit my blog – I just posted two pieces today about this subject and this blog is full of research/articles on trees, other wildlife – plenty of personal reflections too. I am a tree woman from way back but am also a naturalist so… personally I believe that as Powers says that what we need is to develop a plant consciousness – one based on community not commodity – although how we go about de-constructing this monster we have created is another matter. Ceiba trees are amazing. The one I am most familiar with is the Kapok that I found in the Amazon – they can live up to 500 years i believe. And my goddess, they are beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was so happy to be able to plant some trees in our community wild(ish) place recently. We got a great group of volunteers together at short notice – ages 12-70 or so – and worked in the fresh air, getting our hands in the soil. Magic!

    Liked by 1 person

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