Do Trees Feel Pain? What Science Says

Updated on March 23, 2022
watering a plant by hand

Pruning or trimming plants, harvesting produce, removing weeds – all these are everyday activities for a gardener. If trees could feel pain, these activities would definitely hurt the trees. So regardless of whether you are a seasoned gardener or you are just interested in getting into gardening, one of the first questions you would ask yourself is, “Do trees feel pain?” 

Trees are one of the most important parts of our ecosystem. They provide shade, clean the air, and add beauty to our world. Trees sequester carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. According to USDA, a single large and mature tree can provide enough Oxygen for approximately 4 people. To put this into perspective, we can say that if a family consists of four members, just one large tree by itself is enough to supply Oxygen for that family. Trees also help regulate the climate by cooling down urban areas in the summer and moderating temperatures in wintertime. They’re a food source for animals both big and small, from squirrels to deer to bears. But the question is when we eat fruits from trees or cut them down, do they feel pain?  

Do Trees Actually Feel Pain?  

‘Do trees feel pain?’ is a common question that might come to the mind of a tree-enthusiast. This is a question that has been debated for years, with no clear answer. Some people believe that trees do not feel pain, because trees lack the ability to experience emotions as humans do. Others argue that just because we can't understand how a tree feels or processes feelings doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't experience pain. 

There is some evidence to suggest that trees can indeed feel pain. One study showed that when a tree was cut, it released an airborne hormone called ethylene which is associated with stress and pain in other animals. Additionally, scientists have observed certain behaviors in trees that could be interpreted as signs of distress or discomfort. For example, when branches are pruned or leaves are clipped off, sometimes the tree will produce more sap or emit defensive chemicals to protect itself from further harm. 


There is no conclusive evidence that trees feel pain, but there is certainly reason to believe they might. Trees are able to communicate with one another, and they respond to stimuli in their environment. They may experience some level of discomfort when they are injured or when something is wrong with them. There's no definitive answer yet, but it's clear that more research needs to be done on this topic. In the meantime, let's err on the side of caution and treat our trees with care and respect – after all, they are an important part of our environment. 

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