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Do trees really sleep?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Last Thursday, I came back late from a day of Carnival-related traffic jam with a young coconut man from Toco who declared that he needed to pick before six, because by that time the tree would have fallen asleep. So, I broke the speed limit along the streets of Curepe because I did not know the words to the requisite prayer to properly disrupt the tree’s slumber. Neither did he. So we had to get there before tree bedtime.

There was some anxiety on the part of the climber and his assistant as the clock reached 5.50 pm and we were at the bottom of the St Joseph hill. Of course, when we arrived, between gate and car trunk, we ended up fumbling and bungling.

In an instant, Brandon was up the tree. I raced inside to get the water containers, ran out with them and noticed that, within the space of those few minutes, two massive bunches of coconuts had already been lowered to the ground.

Then it was time to rush back indoors while the containers were being filled and to start Googling like crazy: “Do trees sleep?” “Tree-coconut-sleep”, “tree-myths”, “do trees have sex?”, “popular tree names” and so forth.

I suppose if I had to name my tree I would call it “Malcolm.” Why? I don’t know. “Malcolm” just sounds like a good tree name. I would be like: “Hey, meet Malcolm. He’s about 20 feet tall and has big nuts.”

So, I Googled and Googled and actually found that on May 17, 2016 a study out of the Vienna University of Technology reported that “most living organisms adapt their behaviour to the rhythm of day and night.

Now, using laser scanners, scientists are studying the day-night rhythm of trees. As it turns out, trees go to sleep too.”

This, I suppose, explains the “Nightmare on Elm Street” thing. 

Why could it not have been “Frederick Street” or “Wrightson Road?” Why, “Elm”?


American comedic writer, Jack Handey, must have been onto something after all. “If trees could scream,” he asked, “would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.”

Can you imagine if trees really screamed? Some people have taken to talking to trees and plants. Which means that if trees screamed, we would have meaningfully been able to scream back at them.

I can think of a few nasty tree remarks. I would, for example, call my mango tree a “low-down, scrawny bunch of celery” or “you useless patch of ti-marie.” My pommerac tree would be a “slimy, mosquito-ridden hog plum.”

It’s nothing new, of course, German professor, Gustav Fechner, way back in 1848 was certain that trees and plants were capable of “human-like emotions” and capable of interacting with people.

I can’t remember where, but I once saw a promo for a show where people were beginning to explore sexual pleasure with trees. Again, nothing new. There was this guy we called “Fenty” facesback in the day who was purported to have used a Queen’s Park Savannah tree as much more than a natural urinal.

Speaking of which. Why are trees always the hapless victims? You have an urgent pee? Tree. Texting and walking? Tree. Drunk and driving? Tree. Kite string bust? Tree. Woody Woodpecker? Tree. Trees never get a break.

For further reading, one local tree hugger recommended The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. On the back cover of the book, Charles Foster, describes the publication as “a paradigm-smashing chronicle of joyous entanglement that will make you acknowledge your own entanglement in the ancient and ever-new web of being.” There is such a thing as tree language, I suppose.

Then there are people who arrive after six in need of coconuts without the words to the prayer. The last thing I would want is to be in trouble with the Pope on this Ash (if you know what I mean) Wednesday, so I shall not quote from well-known pagan paeans adapted to prevent Xmas trees from spontaneous combustion, incontinent dogs and the work of curious cats.

But, next time? The coconut guy and I are moving early o’clock. Let sleeping trees stand, oui.


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