What the Trees Tell Us

The Trees

by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

4 thoughts on “What the Trees Tell Us

  1. My wife and I are reading “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate-Discoveries from A Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben. Both the achievements and limitations of trees are fascinating. Reminds me of your entry on Plants as Aliens.


    • Hi again, Eric. I just finished Wohlleben’s book and loved it. Thanks for pointing me to it. I’m thinking about the chapter on why forests are green. I grew up in Connecticut with a large copper beech tree outside, where family and friends climbed, built simple platforms, and just admired its scale and strength and reddish leaves. So when Wohlleben explains that most leaves are green because that is a plant’s “trash” color–the chlorophyl absorbs every wavelength but that–and the few trees with reddish leaves have a mutation that rejects that color as well, I was fascinated. I think it’s one of many ways we misinterpret plants and animals–missing out on their complexity, not understanding their crucial processes or where they take place–and so we objectify them; they seem alive only in a partial sense. The “trash” color is a dramatic example and I hope to write something about that. So, thanks again for the reading tip.


      • Glad you enjoyed it. We are still savouring it at a pace of a chapter every few nights. I would love to just read it cover to cover in a sitting but we only have so much time during which we can enjoy it together.


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