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Mother of the Woods: Mycelium

Trees are givers of shade and coolness on a hot and sunny day; home to birds, creatures, and insects of every kind; trees are the heroes in stories and even magical with lands that live atop the canopy with strange fruits and nuts growing on different branches.

Gobblers of carbon dioxide, they are the lungs of our planet. But did you know that they are very much alive under the ground too? A whole world of roots that are tended to and cared for by the real mother of the woods.

Mothers are, of course, the givers of life, the wisdom keepers, the knowers of what is going on and what needs to be done to solve it. Mothers guide, lead, nurture and govern with routines, insight, and compassion. They are also, strong, firm, and aware long before you are. Did you ever wonder if your mother had eyes at the back of her head or the hearing of a Peruvian fruit bat? I sure did!

Cast your eye over a copse or wood and know that a world of leadership, wisdom, brilliance, and tenderness is happening right under your feet. Tendrils communicate gently and with a depth of detail, power, and preciseness to embarrass even the noblest of quantum computers.

Information is captured, assessed, processed, and shared for not only what each tree needs and how they are doing but, down to the exact micronutrient required to help.

Each unique tree snuggled into the masses is understood, monitored, and supported via this mother of the woods. No matter how complex the sea of roots with sometimes upwards of thousands of trees in one network, every single tree is cared for as it needs to be. Not just generically but personalized and customized. How’s them apples?

These extraordinary fungi, use their branch and arm-like membranes to build a communication network called mycelium. The mycelium is the connector. She connects individual plants, and even a whole ecosystem together in a web of information.

Empowered by the precise needs of her family, the mycelium delivers nutrients, sugar, and water in a complex dynamic interactive manner with the plants and delivers chemical signals.

Despite lacking a nervous system, these fungi can transmit information using electrical impulses across their thread-like filaments called hyphae. These fine and delicate filaments form a thin web called a mycelium that links fungal colonies within the soil. In astonishing fashion, these networks are remarkably like an animal's nervous system.

We so often tread with our heavy feet through paths and across wooded areas without realizing that this intelligence is working all around us and below us in ways that we cannot fully appreciate.

The mycorrhizal network not only sends nutrients to one other under normal conditions but can signal to each other in times of stress. It is as though they have feelings! Do I believe they do? Yes, I do! I believe that trees have feelings, and the network of information that shuttles to and from under the soil, through the soil, and around the roots seems to validate my beliefs.

But in true scientific fact, the linch pin in the tree-fungi networks are hub trees. Sometimes referred to as “mother trees,” these are the older, more seasoned trees in a forest. Having the most fungal connections, their roots are established in deeper soil and can reach deeper sources of water to pass on to younger saplings. Through the mycorrhizal network, these hub trees detect the ill health of their neighbors from distress signals and send them needed nutrients.

Nobel laureate biologist Max Delbrück considered mycelium “the most intelligent” of simple multicellular organisms. Quite the pronouncement coming from a scientist.

Intelligence implies thought, awareness, compassion, wisdom, and ultimately leadership. When we apply intelligence, it is to solve a problem or create solutions that often impact those around us. Our families, teams, employees, friends, or communities are affected when we apply intelligence to our efforts.

Mycelium is intelligent, aware, wise, and shares willingly, with compassion, and without compensation or something in return.

Mycelium is a true Mother!


Dina O'Reilly is 4xi's Strategic Partnership & Growth lead, she is also our Project Management Office lead, and Ghostwriter in Residence, providing BLOGS+ services to clients. To learn more, contact Dina at


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