Physicist Ed Wagner says he has found evidence that trees talk to each other in a language he calls W-waves.
"If you chop into a tree, you can see that adjacent trees put out an electrical pulse," said Wagner. "This indicates they communicate directly."Explaining the phenomenon, Wagner pointed to a blip on a strip-chart recording of the electrical pulse.
"It put out a tremendous cry of alarm," he said. "The adjacent trees put out smaller ones."
An abstract of his research was published last fall in Northwest Science magazine, put out by the Northwest Scientific Association at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.
"People have known there was communication between trees for several years, but they've explained it by the chemicals trees produce," Wagner said.
"But I think the real communication is much quicker and more dramatic than that," he said. "These trees `know' within a few seconds what is happening. This is an automatic response."
Wagner has measured the speed of W-waves at about 3 feet per second through trees and about 15 feet per second through the air.
"They travel much too slowly for electrical waves," he said. "They seem to be an altogether different entity. That's what makes them so intriguing. They don't seem to be electromagnetic waves at all."
Wagner said he stumbled across the W-waves early last year while doing research on sap flow in trees.
He was intrigued to find different electrical voltage readings at various locations in the sections of tree trunks he was working with, indicating a standing wave formation.
Wagner, 58, holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Tennessee. He formerly worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee and taught physics at California State Polytechnic University for five years.
He returned to his family home in Wimer, about 15 miles east of Grants Pass, in the 1970s and established the Wagner Research Laboratory. About six years ago he earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton in Ohio.
Wagner said his work has been greeted with skepticism, but he remains confident it will be accepted one day.
"Scientists are supposed to be open-minded to discovery, but if you come up with something that is contrary to scientific religion, it's hard to get through to them."