There are endless odes to trees. We continue to stumble onto their attributes and how they can provide for us in new ways. From David Harris’ horrifying The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street over California's Ancient Redwoods, to Stefano Mancuso’s remarkable Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, I devour the information we pick up. I appreciate total respect for trees. Fiona Stafford continues the tradition, adding historical, literary and mythical aspects to a selection of 17 trees found in England, including her own experience with them. It is a delight.
There is often great respect for trees in the UK. In England, great old trees have their own names. They are locations, milestones, boundary references and above all, meeting places. Churches and halls were built at those tree meeting places, the natural place for them. English yews can easily be 2500 years old, oaks 1000. They are long-lived, dependable landmarks in addition to all their other gifts.
In The Long Long Life of Trees, we learn not only their lifespans (30 years for apple, 3000 for yews), but what uses their wood is, what chemical compounds we make from their fruit, their sap or their bark, and how history and literature have treated them (badly for the willow, royally for the oak). It took 2000 oaks to make a warship. Holly trees date from the Cretaceous. Apples came from Kazakhstan, willows from China. Elms and horse chestnuts - museum pieces unfortunately.
The book suffers from one thing – images. There are lots of black and white etchings and woodcuts, far more artistic than informative, and I found it impossible to read the book without an internet search engine handy. Stafford goes to great lengths describing famous trees in various locales, but usually doesn’t show them, and when she does, it’s monochrome or grayscale. This is sinful. Trees with a circumference of 50 feet need to be seen if only to be believed. There’s no point describing glorious blossoms if all you’re going to show is a line drawing.
It is well researched, and the passion shows on every page. The Long Long Life of Trees is a valued addition to the shelf.
- Paperback: 296 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (15 March 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300228201
- ISBN-13: 978-0300228205
- Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 358 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)