Peter Wohlleben

The au­thor ex­plains how na­ture can tell us whether or not to pack our rain­coats

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild At Home -

Why did you write this book?

I’m a forester, so I’m in contact with the weather ev­ery day. In Ger­many, as in the UK, it’s a bit of an ob­ses­sion. I wanted to share how you can learn to read the signs.

The book is also about the sim­ple pro­cesses of na­ture that sur­round us. Which are eas­i­est to ob­serve?

Ther­mals – col­umns of warm air – are ob­vi­ous. On a fine day you’ll see fluffy cu­mu­lus clouds form­ing at the top and birds of prey soar­ing on the up­ward lift. Ants are also in­ter­est­ing. Their move­ments loosen soil, im­prove root pen­e­tra­tion and help plants to dis­perse. Seeds bear sug­ary morsels known as elaio­somes; the ants haul these home for din­ner and dis­card the seeds up to 70m away. Wild straw­ber­ries, dog vi­o­lets and for­get-me-knots all take ad­van­tage of this de­liv­ery ser­vice.

Can plants pre­dict the weather?

Yes. The up­per sides of daisy petals grow faster in warmer weather; the un­der­sides in cooler con­di­tions. So if rain is due, the petals droop or close; if it’s sunny, they open. Waterlilie­s can also close hours be­fore rain.

What about birds?

Chaffinche­s mod­ify their songs when the weather is set to turn – their ‘rain call’ is a sim­ple, mono­syl­labic raaatch. It’s also said that when swal­lows fly high, sum­mer will be dry – but the op­po­site is the case.

And pine cones?

Sadly not. They do open up in sunny, dry weather, but the change lags be­hind.

How does rain in­flu­ence an­i­mals?

Earth­worms, for in­stance, emerge be­cause rain brings the risk of drown­ing in flooded bur­rows. There’s also a the­ory that the drum­ming of the rain sounds like the dig­ging of preda­tory moles. Larger an­i­mals usu­ally run for cover when it’s rain­ing, but come back into the open to dry off when it stops. This is why the few min­utes im­me­di­ately af­ter a down­pour is a great time to watch deer.

How does aflower clock work?

Carl Lin­naeus re­alised that dif­fer­ent flower species open at dif­fer­ent times of day, with im­pres­sive re­li­a­bil­ity: pump­kins at 6am, marigolds at 8am, and so on (tout­ing nec­tar and pollen to pol­li­na­tors when your ri­vals are still asleep gives a com­pet­i­tive edge). His idea was to cre­ate a clock with the time in­di­cated by open­ing blooms in­stead of numbers and hands. Var­i­ous botan­i­cal gar­dens at­tempted it in the early 19th cen­tury, but with mixed results.

Daisies close when bad weather is on the way.

The Weather De­tec­tive Rider, £9.99

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