The hidden language of trees and marginalised people

Image of tree against sky

Preliminary reflections By Nobila Bano

Our close associations with the natural environment may be influenced by the physical similarities derived between humans and trees (Abbott, 2021). Understanding the specific language of trees and marginalised people may provide opportunities to analyse what the future hope for both organisms may resemble.

Biological characteristics

Similar to how tree branches develop and bend at different speeds and angles, humans and trees also have changing physical traits, and vary in accordance with colours, lengths, and sizes. The fact that human tubular branching patterns also resemble tree root systems is equally fascinating! (Simard, 2021)

Migration, survival & evolution

Tree migration and human migration both involve some kind of physical movement to support aspects of survival and growth (for future generations). In many biological respects, trees and migrant-background people can also respond to shifts in the environment by adapting and evolving to ‘fit in’ with their surroundings (Team Oxbow, 2021).  Furthermore, similar to migrant-background groups, the healthier a tree community is, the better each individual tree is likely to be!  (Simard, 2020).

A sense of place and identity

Narratives derived from numerous world cultures and religions have thoroughly examined the symbolic connections drawn between trees and disadvantaged people. These stories frequently begin with profound associations drawn between trees and the celestial realms, which are later explored through contemporary interpretations (The living Urn, 2019).

Community spirit

Oftentimes, migrant-background people and trees develop symbiotic partnerships. The survival and development of trees and societies with migrant-background communities depend on these linkages. Even in the most trying times, these communities may be able to survive thanks to the support that comes from sustaining interdependent relationships. Providing supplies for survival as well as shade, shelter, and safety are just a few examples.


When we consider resilience, words like strength, perseverance, struggle, or trauma immediately come to mind; but this is only a partial story. Many migrant-background groups have also triumphed over their own arduous journeys of displacement, much like resilient trees that have endured torturous storms (Forestry Commission, 2022). Examining the resilience of trees and migrant-background communities can demonstrate how resilient they are even in the worst of situations. As a result, the existence of trees and migrant-background groups may serve as a beacon of hope for other marginalised living organisms on this planet, as well as for their own individualised communities.

Leaving behind family legacies

Like humans, trees also leave behind heirlooms that benefit future generations. Mothers, whether they be human or tree, for instance, can be crucial to the regeneration and nourishing of younger and future generations. In addition to this, a recent study claims that trees are capable of fully understanding when their lives are about to end. As a result, they begin the process of passing on carbon and phosphorus to support other family trees! (Simard, 2021).

Anecdotal information and resources can also traverse generations and geographic boundaries for populations with migrant-background communities. The practise of passing down knowledge is beneficial since it may present opportunities to preserve important knowledge to promote the survival and development of future generations.

Future hope

You could question what the future might hold for migrant-background people and trees in light of this. In an effort to maintain optimism for future generations, perhaps the future lies in our capacity to nurture, maintain, and defend the identities and cultures of all living organisms.

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Abbott, S. (2021) ‘Approaching Nonhuman Ontologies: Trees, Communication, and Qualitative Inquiry’. Vol. 27(8-9) 1059–1071. DOI: 10.1177/1077800421994954

Forestry Commission (2022) ‘Plant your future: The case for trees’ (Accessed 20.08.22)

Simard, S. (2021) ‘Finding the Mother Tree’. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Team Oxbow (2021) ‘Assisted tree migration: Planting for climate resilience’. (Accessed 25.08.22)

The living Urn (2019) ‘The Special Relationship Between People and Trees’. (Accessed 24.08.22)