Stands of Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) in the subalpine meadows of Mt. Rainier National Park, USA.

11trees founder Andrew McCann chose the name 11trees thinking of the “one-to-one” relationships that trees are able to form rather than the random number eleven. While it sounds like something out of a fairy tale, trees are able to communicate their needs, at least rudimentarily. While trees aren’t sentient beings, recent discoveries have shed light on how they interact in a much more complex way than one might suspect.

“Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought.”

Smithsonian Magazine

Research being conducted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has shown how trees are able to use a voltage-based signaling system, similar to how neural networks function, to communicate in a rudimentary way. This communication is more than shouting into the void; trees form connections via their roots that enable them to exchange nutrients with the help of specialized fungi. While the “communication” is chemical rather than conscious, this concept served as an inspiration for 11trees. 

Superficially it may seem the most advantageous strategy for a large tree is to dominate its forest patch, hoarding as many nutrients as possible. While immediately beneficial, long-term it is harmful. Dominating its neighbors facilitates immediate growth but exposes the tree to dangers such as soil dehydration from a lack of shade on the forest floor.

The 11trees logo deliberately incorporates two numerals to form the trunk, one taller than the other. This is meant to convey how teachers and students interact and grow together. Rather than the teacher being a domineering old-growth tree shading a forest of saplings, the teacher is one mature tree in a forest; giving but also receiving.

Old-growth trees do more than just shade the understory. They are able to actively encourage the forests’ overall health by sharing essential nutrients, moisture, and even information with other trees and plants. Trees cooperate across species, with the large helping the small and vice versa. The diversity created by this give-and-take relationship leads to a healthier environment for each individual tree in the forest.  Likewise, teachers play a vital role in promoting student growth. Simply being present and lecturing is not enough to help students develop. Actively providing feedback is essential to students’ development. In turn, teachers also benefit from fomenting a healthy, diverse classroom environment. 

Feedback is the driving mission of 11trees. In fact Feedback² is our mission statement because we believe that the growth that comes from specific, targeted feedback is exponential. That’s why we’ve created Annotate PRO (to organize and easily provide feedback) and Canopy (to ease giving feedback in Canvas discussions). We’ve also created libraries of feedback targeting everything from writing skills to live presentations. And because we love trees so much, we’ve partnered with Mossy Earth to promote reforestation and re-wilding projects around the globe.