Peter Wohlleben

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Peter Wohlleben
Wohlleben in 2012
Bonn, West Germany
Occupation(s)Forester, author
Notable workThe Hidden Life of Trees, The Inner Life of Animals, The Secret Wisdom of Nature, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?

Peter Wohlleben (born 1964) is a German forester and author who writes on ecological themes in popular language and has controversially argued for plant sentience.[1][2][3] He is the author of the New York Times Bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, which was translated from German into English in 2016.[4][5]


After graduation from forestry school in Rottenburg am Neckar, he took up a job as a government wood ranger in the Rhineland-Palatinate in 1987. As he grew more familiar with the woodlands he was overseeing, he became disenchanted due to the damage caused by the techniques and technologies he was expected to employ, including the felling of mature trees and the use of insecticides.[6]

Professionally, Wohlleben manages a beech forest on behalf of the municipality of Hümmel, Germany.[7] He offers regular forest tours at his forest academy.[8]

Wohlleben advocates for animal welfare and has raised awareness about the treatment of animals.[9][10] He has controversially argued that plants feel pain and has stated that "It's okay to eat plants. It's okay to eat meat, although I'm a vegetarian, because meat is the main forest killer. But if plants are conscious about what they are doing, it's okay to eat them. Because otherwise we will die. And it's our right to survive.”[11]

Writing career[edit]

Wohlleben began publishing books popularizing scientific research about ecology and forest management in 2007. The appearance of his Das geheime Leben der Bäume through Random House's Ludwig imprint led to profiles[12][13] and reviews[14] in all the major German newspapers, including skeptical pieces in the business press.[15][16] The book was featured in a cover story in Der Spiegel and appeared on the Spiegel bestseller list.[17]

His 2012 book Kranichflug und Blumenuhr, was translated as The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs in 2018. The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things – Stories from Science and Observation was released in 2019. Wohlleben's first book for children available in English was published in October 2019. Called Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering The Hidden Life of Forests, it is a young readers' edition of The Hidden Life of Trees.[18]

The Hidden Life of Trees[edit]

His 2015 book about natural forests, Das geheime Leben der Bäume:Was sie fühlen, wie sie kommunizieren – die Entdeckung einer verborgenen Welt,[19] (The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World) introduces readers to the world of trees, including Wood-Wide Web, through which nutrition and signals are exchanged among trees.[20] An English translation was published in September 2016 under the title The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate with a foreword by Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery, published by Greystone Books in partnership with the David Suzuki Institute.[21] It cites the research of Suzanne Simard.[22] The book was widely criticized by biologists and forest scientists for using strong anthropomorphic and teleological language such as describing trees as having friendships and registering fear, love and pain.[1] It has been described as containing a "conglomeration of half-truths, biased judgements, and wishful thinking".[1]

A documentary film Intelligent Trees[23] features several of Wohlleben's observations. He appears alongside Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, who has been doing research on interactions among trees through micorrhizal networks since 1997.[24][25]

A second documentary film was released under the title The Hidden Life of Trees [de] in theaters in the United States.[26][27] It had its UK premiere at the 2021 Wales One World Film Festival, which was presented online owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.[28]

The Inner Life of Animals[edit]

In 2016, Wohlleben authored Das Seelenleben der Tiere, which was translated into English and published under the title The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion—Surprising Observations of a Hidden World in 2017.[29] The book argues for animal sentience.[30] It contains 41 short chapters with examples of animals exhibiting emotions such as courage, desire, grief, love and regret.[31][32]

Major works[edit]

  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World (Greystone Books, 2015)
  • The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World (Greystone Books, 2016)
  • The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things ― Stories from Science and Observation (Greystone Books, 2017)
  • Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering The Hidden Life of the Forest (Greystone Kids, 2019)
  • Peter and the Tree Children (Greystone Kids, 2020)
  • The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature (Greystone Books, 2021)


  1. ^ a b c Kingsland, Sharon Elizabeth (2018). "Facts or Fairy Tales? Peter Wohlleben and the Hidden Life of Trees". Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. 99 (4): e01443. doi:10.1002/bes2.1443.
  2. ^ "The man who thinks trees talk to each other". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Are Trees Sentient Beings? Certainly, Says German Forester". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  4. ^ McGrane, Sally (29 January 2016). "German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Wohlleben, Peter. "Peter Wohlleben – Bücher". Förster & Autor Peter Wohlleben (in German). Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  6. ^ Mark Brown (2017-05-27). "Trees talk to each other, have sex and look after their young, says author | Environment". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-31.
  7. ^ Leslie, André; Taube, Friedel (November 19, 2013). "Protecting Germany's old forests". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Do Trees Talk to Each Other?".
  9. ^ "Authors debate the suffering and dreams of animals". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  10. ^ "The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  11. ^ "Do trees have a social network?". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  12. ^ Weinl, Volker (July 25, 2015). "Können Bäume wirklich miteinander reden?" [Can Trees really converse with each other?] (in German). Bild GmbH & Co. KG. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  13. ^ Heidtmann, Jan (November 20, 2015). "Der Baumflüsterer" [The Tree Whisperer]. Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  14. ^ Freund, Wielland (July 4, 2015). "Aus dem Bäumischen von Peter Wohlleben" (in German). WeltN24 GmbH. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  15. ^ zu Guttenberg, Philipp (December 23, 2015). "Sehnsuchtsort Wald" [The Woods: a place of yearning]. Handelsblatt (in German). Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  16. ^ Mühl, Stephanie (November 29, 2015). "Bäume sind so tolle Lebewesen" [Trees are such fantastic creatures] (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  17. ^ Maus, Stephan (17 October 2015). "Dieser Rebell mischt den deutschen Wald auf" [This rebel presents a new view of the German forest] (in German). GmbH. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, reviewed | Books, et al". December 2020.
  19. ^ Wohlleben, Peter (2015). Das geheime Leben der Bäume (in German). Munich: Ludwig. ISBN 978-3-453-28067-0.
  20. ^ Anon, "Trees have sex, feel pain, says German forester", Deutsche Welle, June 6, 2017.
  21. ^ Wohlleben, Peter (September 2016). The Hidden Life of Trees. Vancouver, Canada: Greystone. ISBN 978-1-771-64248-4.
  22. ^ "‘Mother Trees’ Are Intelligent: They Learn and Remember". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  23. ^ Intelligent Trees – The Documentary. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  24. ^ Simard, Suzanne. "Faculty Profile - Publications". UBC Faculty of Forestry. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  25. ^ Simard, Suzanne. "The networked beauty of forests". TED-Ed. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  26. ^ Girish, Devika (July 15, 2021). "'The Hidden Life of Trees' Review: Magic Kingdom". New York Times.
  27. ^ "The Hidden Life of Trees". IMDB.
  28. ^ "Gŵyl Ffilm WOW "Cymru a'r Byd yn Un" / WOW "Wales One World" Film Festival". Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  29. ^ Wohlleben, Peter (2017-11-07). The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion — Surprising Observations of a Hidden World. Translated by Jane Billinghurst. Greystone Books. ISBN 9781771643023. Foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. First published in 2016 in German, under the title Das Seelenleben der Tiere. *"Sensitivity of pigs and the thieving of squirrels — all part of animals' inner lives". The Washington Post. 2017-12-08.
  30. ^ "Review: The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief and Compassion". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  31. ^ "The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben – review". Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  32. ^ "The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion; Surprising Observations of a Hidden World". Retrieved 14 February 2023.

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