Virtual Museum of Canada
Jardin botanique de Montréal 
Centre for Forest Research
Audio Clip

“Thoughts About Trees”, by Brother Marie-Victorin

Here is the transcript of audio excerpts taken from “Thoughts About Trees”, a talk given by Brother Marie-Victorin on October 12, 1943.

"I went into the forest to study the tree. Sitting on the moss, I opened one of those good old botanical volumes that explain everything through learned discourse about plants as we see them. And here is what this esteemed author says to me about the word tree: 'The tree is a woody plant, perennial, with a main stem called a trunk, generally without branches on the lower portion, but with a crown of branches at the top.'

Impatiently, I tossed the book aside, and it fell open, face down, on the green rosettes of bunchberry. No, that's not what a tree is! It is not just a column of wood, this rising of a mysterious force, living and universal, that defies heaviness, dominating the inorganic realm.

The tree moves us by its form, infinitely varied and yet one: a form that can only be defined as the form of a tree. From where does the tree obtain its form? The philosophy I consulted has no answer. The observation of analogies suggests that the form of a tree is a function of its sedentary way of life. Marine animals, corals for example, fixed firmly to rock faces, do they not adopt an arborescent form?

Anchored solidly in the earth, at a point determined by the capricious journey of a seed, the tree raises its mass, allows it to settle into branches to multiply its contacts, to better bathe in the portion of the nourishing air to which it has access.

In this way, each tree's lineage traces onto the sky's blue canvas, forever scoured by the winds, a personal signature that ancient Nature, over millions of years, has inscribed in the book of life, a knowledge also inherited by all beings of the forest and the fields – insects, birds, small mammals, that live closely linked to the tree."

Excerpt from a lecture by Brother Marie-Victorin, from the program La Cité des Plantes, on October 12th, 1943.