UKTC Archive

Re: Rhizomorphs do not show intelligence..........

Subject: Re: Rhizomorphs do not show intelligence..........
From: Jerry Ross
Date: Nov 20 2020 08:15:35
I suspect that the much-hyped book 'Entangled Life'will be a mycological 'Short History of the Universe' and like that book be left unfinished on a thousand bookshelves. But it is worth a read. It's particularly good in explaining the unfathomable complexity of the interactions between and within fungal colonies and with soils, plants, animals; indeed with pretty much every other substrate on the planet. He's clear not to attribute 'intelligence' to fungi, but shows that the way they respond, communicateand make 'decisions' really does end up looking rather like a form of intelligence. So it seems unlikely your rhizomorphs are merely 'wasting resources' and climbing up your tree by mistake or responding to just one more of God's impenetrable jokes. But the take-away from the book, despite its exhaustive footnotes, referencesand attributions to a range of authorities, is that we really know extraordinarily little about them.
An interview with Sheldrake here:

(BTW, are you sure your fungus is not whittling away at the marble-hard heartwood? Fungi break down rock, so heartwood probably wouldn't defeat them)

On 19/11/2020 23:25, Rupert Baker wrote:
Hi Jon,
        I'm not sure I'm obsessed with evolution; I am  not a born-again 
neo-darwinist, certainly - I consider that there may be truth in some aspects 
of the Lamarckian 'heresy' - as the former would have it.  My point, I guess, 
is wondering what programming the rhizomorphs have; if the fungus is able to 
spread throughout the tree by latent propagules - as Boddy's work suggests 
for many species - why exert precious energy going somewhere where other 
parts of you have refreshed themselves already - if you'll forgive the 
illusion to a widely advertised dilute sugar solution modified by another 
species of fungus. Why not use the effort to spread through the surrounding 
habitat looking for other tasty carbohydrate sources as yet unexploited. 
You'd think that a few random mutations favouring offspring that were able to 
avoid negative geotropism, or recognise the difference between soils, even in 
a humus layer, and wood (I reckon there would be a difference in the solutes 
present if nothing else) would mean that there would be advantages to the 
random offspring in not recolonising somewhere they already existed in. 
Unless the fungi decaying the upper parts of the tree were different species/ 
organisms, and worth fighting for the rights to the Carb source.
I understand very clearly that evolution is not purposeful; but external 
selection pressures on random mutation lead to an analogous mode of action to 
purpose. Given how long fungi like Armillaria have been around, if they were 
wasting energy that another organism operating in the same sort of habitat 
had 'evolved' to use more efficiently, it is likely that they would have been 
competed out of existence, or at any rate to the margins.
Which suggests that their M.O. is so effective that they can afford to waste 
resources like they were going out of fashion, and still be top dog.....

Or that a remarkably petty-minded god was having fun messing with its 


-----Original Message-----
From: On Behalf Of Jon Heuch
Sent: 19 November 2020 16:38
To: UK Tree Care <>
Subject: Re: Rhizomorphs do not show intelligence..........

"but I do wonder what is the evolutionary advantage of.."

I appreciate that arborists are trying to understand the world, which is 
good, but I do wonder why arborists are obsessed with evolution. Most of the 
things I do have no evolutionary advantage, especially when it comes to 
eating and drinking. I know I might get a hangover if I drink too 
much....yet, from time to time that's what I evolutionary advantage, 
possibly some disadvantage.

Some want to think that trees and fungi are intelligent organisms, even 
"communicating"..the Woodland Trust have a video on line asking how trees 
communicate so that they all produce mast at the same time. I cringed..someone hasn't 
thought about the weather, I thought.

Trees and fungi do stuff that don't lead to any evolutionary 
advantage...girls just wanna have fun...(phade out Cindy Lauper)


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The UKTC forum is supported by Bosky Trees arboricultural consultancy and
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