Finding the Mother Tree Book Summary By Suzanne Simard

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Finding the Mother Tree (2021) is a unique exploration of the fascinating and sometimes strange secrets of the forest.

Written by renowned ecologist Suzanne Simard, it is a combination of science, memoir and exciting adventure that brings to life the breathtaking journey she takes us on.

It takes us deep into the forests of British Columbia which reveal amazing mysteries and alter our perception of nature.

With its intertwining of knowledge and personal experience, Finding the Mother Tree is sure to captivate readers as they discover something new within every chapter!

Finding the Mother Tree Book Summary

Book Name: Finding the Mother Tree (Discovering How the Forest Is Wired for Intelligence and Healing)

Author(s): Suzanne Simard

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 36 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Suzanne Simard is a renowned forest ecologist and professor at the University of British Columbia who has made groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cooperative ecosystems.

Her research into "mother" or hub trees has been widely influential and her life story has been the inspiration for some highly acclaimed works of fiction, including Richard Powers' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory, and James Cameron's award-winning film Avatar.

In This Course, You’ll Explore The Fascinating World Of Ecological Science

Ecological Science

When she was younger, Suzanne had a life-changing experience.

While exploring the forest with her dad and uncle Jack, they came across a layer of humus covered in fungal threads.

They continued to dig until they found rocks, which they removed with a crowbar –⁠ only to discover that their pet dog, Jiggs, had fallen through the floor of an outhouse underneath.

This experience would later be the catalyst for Suzanne’s career as an ecologist –⁠ one who could see beyond the surface of a seemingly ordinary forest, get down on its level and understand it deeper than many others.

She followed her passion for nature into the underground world where she learnt about the complexities of tree roots and fungi helping trees to grow.

She also found out how harmful herbicides can be and how trees can act like mothers in their environment.

Through this journey as an ecologist, Suzanne has been able to gain greater understanding and appreciation of our natural world; while uncovering life lessons along the way.

Uncovering The Mysteries Of Mycelium – How Fungal Threads Could Help Save Our Forests

Suzanne had tasked herself with a mystery of sorts: investigating why the seedlings in a 30-hectare clear-cut were failing to survive.

The first clue came when her boot slipped on the damp path and she grabbed onto a nearby sapling, only to find that its roots were coated in bright yellow mycelium.

She quickly realized that this wasn’t just any ordinary fungus – it held some connection to the health of these young trees.

Her subsequent investigation took her further down the rabbit hole as she examined other healthy fir trees and discovered they too had been rooted with similar yellow mycelium.

But what exactly was its role? And why weren’t the new seedlings connecting with it? Was there something sinister at work here?

The deeper Suzanne dug, the more questions piled up.

But in order to solve this murder mystery, she’d have to find answers – before another crop failure threatened someone’s livelihood.

As she wrote down her analysis of the plantation, she knew one thing for sure: somebody or something had to be held accountable for these failed seedlings…and she was determined to find out who or what it was!

The Power Of Cooperation: A Lesson From The Wild West And Nature’S Symbiotic Relationships

Suzanne read about an amazing relationship the natural world had to offer known as “mutualism.

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which two organisms benefit each other, in ways that couldn’t occur if either of them were alone.

This was demonstrated exemplarily in Suzanne’s experience with the Douglas Fir tree and black truffle.

The mycelium attached to the truffle provided it with nourishment and was also connected to the root tips of the fir tree – meaning any nutrients or water it needed would have to pass through the fungus first.

In turn, the fungus benefited from receiving sugars from the tree, allowing it to grow more mycelium and provide even better sustenance back.

Eventually, Suzanne stumbled upon this enlightened knowledge in a book on mushrooms -a mycorrhizal fungus is one that forms an intimate, life-or-death bond with a plant for mutual benefit.

It made her reconsider what she knew about competition between species within forests and realize how important cooperative relationships are these days as well.

Could these mycorrhizal fungi be crucial for helping forests thrive? It seems so!

Appreciating Nature Through Science: How Suzanne Learned To Balance Execution And Investigation


Suzanne was in a difficult situation as she walked through the clear-cut.

She was part of the execution, something which felt unbearable to her — she had to mark all the 500-year-old trees, each destined to death.

It seemed not only cruel, but also unlike her role in the forest.

She looked for a different way to help.

This eventually led her to work with researcher Alan Vyse and designed an experiment that could evaluate government’s “free to grow” policy.

She would need to kill other plants as part of this policy, but with Alan’s guidance it would ultimately help her understand how this policy works in long term.

The experiment involved three plots with various sediments of herbicides, one plot that used manual cutting operation without herbicide and finally a control plot where all plants were left untouched.

The results were dull – maximum dose of poison turned out most effective at getting rid of the weeds but failed to answer whether seedlings will survive in the long run .

Despite everything , Suzanne still went ahead with reasonable plans on tackling issues related executing of plants.

The Discovery Of A Perfect Partnership: How Suzanne Found The Key To Saving Forests

When Suzanne began her work as a silviculture researcher for the Forest Service, she was determined to explore her theories about the forest by conducting experiments.

With her first research grant, she set out to examine the impact of mycorrhizal connections on the survival of conifer seedlings and find out if native plants could foster those connections.

Designing the experiment was no simple task and successfully executing it posed even more of a challenge, with four replantings required and seedling deaths in every planting season.

It wasn’t until she had her flash of insight – that ectomycorrhizal fungi could form relationships with Douglas fir and western larch trees but arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were linked to grasses – did her endeavor begin to bear fruit.

In the fifth year of experimentation, Suzanne introduced an old-growth soil containing live fungi into one-third of the plot, while radiating soil in a lab to kill fungi populated another third; leaving the final plot untouched.

Upon returning to the site, she found that only the seedlings living in old-growth soil were healthy and thriving owing to their stronger mycorrhizal connection with living fungi present in that environment.

It Takes Passion And Fire To Stand Up For What You Believe In

In Finding the Mother Tree, Suzanne’s moment of resolve comes when she stands up to Kelly with a passionate defense of women’s ability to do more than just “feed babies.” She expresses her discontent at his words and how they invalidate the hard work that women put into both their careers and at home.

Her determination shows her courage in rejecting Kelly’s thoughts of women being defined by traditional roles – something many people still struggle with today.

She uses educated arguments, though slightly distorted by alcohol, to challenge him which reveals how much knowledge and insight she has on the subject.

It is a powerful moment where Suzanne pushes boundaries against gender norms and speaks out, even if it means leaving an uncomfortable situation all together.

Her mantra “we can do whatever we goddamned well please,” reflects the brave attitude of many women today who are fighting for equality in the workplace and beyond.

Grief Propelled Scientist To Prove The Power Of Connection Between Trees


Connie discovered a remarkable phenomenon while researching the relationship between paper birch and Douglas fir trees: they were able to communicate with each other, exchanging carbon via a shared mycorrhizal network.

She termed this incredible connection the “wood-wide web”.

In studying this phenomenon, Connie found that paper birches were so generous with their carbon donations that Douglas firs were able to reproduce at an increased rate.

This remarkable discovery allowed Connie to reexamine the long-held belief that species competition was a major factor in determining success in forest ecosystems.

Connie’s research also revealed the profound connections among plants, fungi, bacteria and other organisms in what some have called the earth’s greatest hidden network of communication.

This web presents exciting possibilities for scientists as it provides insight into how different species cooperate to sustain their environments and even prosper within them.

The Message Of Mother Trees: A Reminder To Appreciate The Connections In Our Lives

In the heart of a forest, there stands a Mother Tree.

As Suzanne discovered on her 9-hour commute home to Nelson, British Columbia, this ancient tree is the source of life in the region and serves as the nucleus of its eco-system.

Its branches reach 25 meters into the air and its generous roots provide nourishment to hundreds of saplings, seedlings, and other trees nearby.

In addition to providing its young with sustenance, it also acts as a hub for communication between its kin thanks to a underground fungal network that transfers nutrients from one tree to another.

Incredibly, this communication is similar to the neural networks found in human brains whereby some nodes are more highly connected than other Just like glutamate is an important neurotransmitter in our brain, carbon and nitrogen play crucial roles in the mycorridal network.

When Suzanne realized that this web of connections was potentially intelligent, she was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for these Mother Trees – they had given her new insights that she was excited to share with others!

When she arrived home late at night after her long journey back, she went straight away for hugs from her two daughters and felt like a Mother Tree herself – central to their lives just as those trees were in the forest.

Living Life To The Fullest: How A Mother Tree’s Sacrifice Inspired One Woman’s Acts Of Love

When the results from Kathryn’s experiment arrived, it brought her a sense of victory and a renewed sense of purpose.

What she had found was that Douglas Fir trees can send vital information like warning signs through the fungal network to adjacent Ponderosa Pine trees.

It came as a reminder that even in death, we can still provide life to others.

The realization of this also caused Katherine to become more aware of her own mortality.

She had gone in for a biopsy on the lump she discovered on her breast just a few weeks ago and hadn’t heard back yet.

The waiting was filled with worry and fear, but it also acted as another reminder–like those dying Mother Trees–to give her daughters everything she could while she still could -all of her love and care in case the worst happened.

Much to her dismay, the phone did ring with bad news; Katherine had cancer.

But rather than let it overwhelm her, Katherine turned back toward her parting gift from Nature–that even if we don’t live forever, our spirit stays alive through providing for those who come after us.

How The Yews And Mother Trees Of A Forest Helped A Woman Through Her Cancer Treatment

Cancer Treatment

When facing the frightening reality of cancer, Suzanne found solace and healing in tree medicine.

Her treatments, which consisted of eight chemotherapy infusions over four months, included a drug called Red Devil as well as paclitaxel – a substance derived from yew trees.

On one wintery day while out skiing, Suzanne stopped and silently thanked the trees for aiding the saplings in their growth and then asked them for help to heal her own ailment.

To her surprise, her student’s research showed that Mother Trees could indeed give more aid to their kin than non-kin seedlings by sending more carbon via mycorrhizal fungi.

As the chemotherapy drugs took their toll on Suzanne’s body, she still put forth enough strength to be there for important moments like her daughter’s birthdays and graduations.

Eventually, she felt relief from the yew medicines which allowed her to go on hikes with her new girlfriend Mary – who shared a common appreciation for forests.

Together they journeyed back to where Suzanne’s medicine had come from: a grove filled with old cedar and maple trees providing shade to small yet powerful yews – whose bark was thick and shaggy with underlying bits of purple flesh.

With gratitude towards nature’s miracle curers, Suzanne reunited with her daughters at the ancient Mother Tree – planting one last wish that these same trees would protect all daughters just as they had protected hers.

Wrap Up

Suzanne Simard’s “Finding the Mother Tree” reveals an incredible understanding of forest ecosystems.

The Mother Tree Project is a landmark experiment that examines the structures and functions of nine different forests across British Columbia to better understand how different webs of relationships work in each one, and how those relationships are affected when Mother Trees are retained.

Simard has also advanced the theory of complexity science, which emphasizes the need to take into account the multiple factors involved in running a successful forest environment.

She’s even exploring the possibility that nitrogen from decayed salmon could be transferred from mycorrhizal fungi through Mother Trees and onward to other trees in the forest.

This book serves as a reminder that our ecosystem is not something scientists can easily dissect and examine through microscopes; it is one united organism full of diversity, regeneration, and complexity.

It debunks any notion that forests are places of competition and winner-take-all by instead demonstrating how these environments thrive most when there is strong reciprocity and relationship building within them.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.