An incredibly intelligent woman has created a haven for rare trees that would otherwise be lost to the world. She has done this on 60 acres of land she and her husband own outside of Ottawa, Canada. They purchased the land in the early 1970s. Since then, Diana Beresford-Kroeger has saved trees, many of which have medicinal qualities with significant benefits.
She wrote a book about her experiences called To Speak for the Trees. It was published in 2019 by Random House, Canada. It is one of the most interesting and readable books I have come across in a long time.
One of the trees she saved was a hop tree known as Ptelea trifoliata. "That tree," she wrote, "has a synergistic biochemical that revs up your major organs and causes them to metabolize things faster. It allows your body to make efficient use of medicines, magnifying their potency, and reduces the amount that you need to take."
If people need chemotherapy, a combination of a medicine made with Ptelea and a chemo drug would reduce the amount of chemo they need. Then they could cope with side effects better because they didn't have as much of the drug in their body.
Diana has an impressive background. She earned both her undergraduate and master's degrees in medical biochemistry and botany from University College Cork in Ireland. She focused on "the hormones that regulate plants and the frost resistance of all species." She wanted to know what the margins of life were.
To start her PhD, she accepted an American Federal Fellowship to the University of Connecticut at Storrs Campus. There, she focused on nuclear chemistry. She studied the effects of nuclear radiation on biological systems in both plants and animals.
At the end of that fellowship, she went to Carleton University in Ottawa, to pursue her PhD research. She focused on serotonin and the tryptophan-tryptamine pathways. She "compared the function of hormones in plants and human beings." In it, she proved that such pathways exist in plants and, most of all, in trees. Her study showed that "trees possess all the same chemicals we have in our brains," she wrote. "Trees have the neural ability to listen and think. They have all the component parts necessary to have a mind or consciousness. That's what I proved: that forests can think and perhaps even dream."
When she and her husband bought their 60 acres of land, it included a huge field and quite a few trees. Concerned that rare trees were dying out, she decided to save as many as she could. Some, like Ptelea trifoliata, had important medicinal qualities.
She diligently searched for many of those trees and planted them on her property. People who learned what she was doing sometimes donated rare species to her. Saving rare trees has become her life's work. Read more about it in her remarkable book, To Speak for the Trees.