Mother trees, altruistic fungi, and the perils of plant personification

David G. Robinson, Christian Ammer, Andrea Polle, Jürgen Bauhus, Roni Aloni, Peter Annighöfer, Tobias I. Baskin, Michael R. Blatt, Andreas Bolte, Harald Bugmann, Jerry D. Cohen, Peter J. Davies, Andreas Draguhn, Henrik Hartmann, Hubert Hasenauer, Peter K. Hepler, Ulrich Kohnle, Friederike Lang, Magnus Löf, Christian MessierSergi Munné-Bosch, Angus Murphy, Klaus J. Puettmann, Iván Quiroz Marchant, Peter H. Raven, David Robinson, Dale Sanders, Dominik Seidel, Claus Schwechheimer, Peter Spathelf, Martin Steer, Lincoln Taiz, Sven Wagner, Nils Henriksson, Torgny Näsholm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


There are growing doubts about the true role of the common mycorrhizal networks (CMN or wood wide web) connecting the roots of trees in forests. We question the claims of a substantial carbon transfer from ‘mother trees’ to their offspring and nearby seedlings through the CMN. Recent reviews show that evidence for the ‘mother tree concept’ is inconclusive or absent. The origin of this concept seems to stem from a desire to humanize plant life but can lead to misunderstandings and false interpretations and may eventually harm rather than help the commendable cause of preserving forests. Two recent books serve as examples: The Hidden Life of Trees and Finding the Mother Tree.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • anthropomorphism
  • common mycorrhizal networks
  • forest management
  • mother tree concept
  • publication policy


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