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Lesson from Redwood Burls

Nature often offers metaphors more elegant than any we can manufacture. In the redwood ecosystem, all seeds are contained in pods called burls, tough brown clumps that grow where the mother tree’s trunk and root system meet. 

When the mother tree is logged, blown over or destroyed by fire, the trauma stimulates the burls’ growth hormones. The seeds release, and trees sprout around her, creating the circle of daughters. The daughter trees grow by absorbing the sunlight their mother cedes to them when she dies. And they get the moisture and nutrients they need from their mother’s root system, which remains intact even after her leaves die. Although the daughters exist independently of their mother above ground, they continue to draw sustenance from her underneath.

— Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss (Addison Wesley, 1994).
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