Peter Wohlleben: The hidden life of the ‘Green Sheep’ who wanted to become an Ent

Sep 3 2021

David talks to the German forester, international best-selling author and near-legendary tree champion, Peter Wohlleben

David Oakes

David Oakes


Peter Wohlleben


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About this episode:

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester, an international best-selling author and (unfortunately for our host) a rival dendro-podcaster! Here Peter talks not only in the manner for how he has become internationally renowned – speaking of how trees can have families, of how they can feel panic and of how they may LITERALLY be able to see what we are doing with tiny optical lenses in their leaves – but also more personally – about how he was the “green sheep” of his family, spending his childhood imitating frogs and whispering sweet nothings to egg yolks. Peter and David discuss the importance of trees as whole ecosystems, of how trees work as a natural thermostat and how the forests of Europe provide the rain for much of China. Add in some of Peter’s respect for the UK’s Woodland Trust, and his concerns about forest bathing in the buff, and you have an incredibly wide ranging conversation, that seeks to unroot the secrets and stories surrounding the hidden life of Peter Wohlleben.

David's thoughts:

I’ve been wanting to meet Peter since before I bought a microphone. As such, months on since our chat, I remain deeply frustrated that we were forced to conduct this interview over Zoom…

…rather than on a walk through a German beech forest…

…a walk followed by an inevitable trip to the nearest bier-keller…

…but I’ll stop sulking soon…


Anyway – the depth of Peter’s knowledge, or to be more precise, the insatiable thirst for information that drives him, is what fascinates me about him. His activism and his tree-championing seem underpinned by two things:

(1) a desire to learn as much as he possibly can about trees, and;
(2) a love of seemingly bathing in the belief that humanity will never know all our forests’ secrets, and hence he grins safe in the knowledge that he will never have part (1) sated.

Peter seems to soak passion from trees in the way Thor drank from the ale-horn that had one end dipped beneath the oceans’ waves. He comes across as one who has the confidence and energy of a perpetual motion machine – a machine whose design serves the purpose of saving our forests, or perhaps saving us (I’m not sure which). Yet despite this, the conclusion of our discussion, that of our inability to save anything for perpetuity, is what I found breathtakingly reassuring. I can often get frustrated by activists whose goals are vague, but Peter, in his role as a campaigner and writer, seems to keep his feet very firmly rooted to the ground, and yet still possesses a mind and heart that are forging ahead with a passion and determination that hopes to take us all with him.

And that’s how I feel having only chatted to him over the internet… just imagine what would have happened if the schnapps had started flowing.



Peter Wohlleben –
“Peter und der Wald” –
Woodland Trust –
Great Bear & the Kwiakah –

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