Remarkable Trees of the World

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A landmark volume celebrating the most remarkable trees on our planet.

The Spirit of nineteenth-century exploration lives in British historian Thomas Pakenham, who has spent the last decade investigating the lives of the world's most dramatic trees, many of which are in danger of destruction. After the worldwide success of his previous work, Meetings with Remarkable Trees -- a stunning collection of 60 individual trees (and groups of trees) in Britain and Ireland chosen for ...

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A landmark volume celebrating the most remarkable trees on our planet.

The Spirit of nineteenth-century exploration lives in British historian Thomas Pakenham, who has spent the last decade investigating the lives of the world's most dramatic trees, many of which are in danger of destruction. After the worldwide success of his previous work, Meetings with Remarkable Trees -- a stunning collection of 60 individual trees (and groups of trees) in Britain and Ireland chosen for their unusually strong personalities -- Pakenham decided to hunt down and photograph another 60 remarkable trees scattered throughout the globe.

Many of these trees were already famous -- champions by girth, height, volume, or age -- while others had never previously been caught by the camera. Pakenham's five-year odyssey, sweating it out with a 30-pound Linhof camera and tripod, took him to most of the temperate and many of the tropical regions of the world. Although North American trees dominate this book, Pakenham also trekked to remote regions in Mexico, all over Europe, parts of Asia including Japan, northern and southern Africa. Madagascar, Australia, and New Zealand.

Despite his expert knowledge, the book owes little to conventional botany. Like its predecessor, Remarkable Trees of the World is arranged according to the characters of the trees themselves. There are Giants and Dwarfs, Methliselahs, Shrines, Dreams, Lovers and Dancers, Ghosts, and Trees in Peril. The chief Giant is General Sherman in the Sierra Nevada, California At over 1400 tons, the grizzled old general, a giant sequoia, is the world's largest tree, measured by volume -- indeed, the largest single living thing in the world. The height record, however, goes to another commanding Californian, a 368-foot high Coast redwood recently declared the tallest tree in the world. Among the Methuselahs, Pakenham describes the wind-blasted bristlecone pines of the White Mountains of California. One of them, Old Methuselah himself, was found to be 4,600 years old, making him the oldest tree yet measured by scientists. Shrines include some of the holiest trees in the world, like the immense camphor trees preserved in Shinto shrines in Japan and the 2,200-year-old Bo-tree in Sri Lanka, a cutting from the actual tree under which Buddha found enlightenment. Trees in Peril are the trees under attack by predatory loggers and impoverished farmers, including the exotic baobabs of Madagascar, now threatened by intensive farming, and the great spruce and Douglas fir and red cedars of Pacific North America in whose defense the conservationists have been fighting the loggers for decades.

Remarkable Trees of the World is a magnificent new work that celebrates Pakenham's gifts as a writer and a photographer. It will be treasured for generations by all those who marvel at the wonders of nature.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
While walking in South Africa in 1829, the British missionary Robert Moffat came upon a giant fig tree so large that, according to his report, it housed seventeen huts in its branches. The historian Thomas Pakenham, in Remarkable Trees of the World, spent four years searching for such giants -- "trees with noble brows and strong personalities" -- and recording their mythologies. The baobab, native to Africa, Madagascar, and Australia, was of special interest to him; according to African legend, trees were gifts to animals from the Great Spirit, and the hyena, enraged to be given the baobab, speared it into the ground, leaving its tangled roots to become branches. American trees are equally impressive: one of California's ancient sequoias, the "Stratosphere Giant," stands taller than a thirty-story skyscraper.

In 1848, New York needed trees: they were considered the "lungs of the City," according to a new field guide published by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, New York City Trees, written and illustrated by Edward Sibley Barnard. The guide describes more than a hundred local species, and it also explains which park was razed by Civil War soldiers, why Orchard Street is so named, and where to find the city's little-known sassafras thickets.

The environmentalist Robert Marshall's The People's Forests first published in 1933, urges public ownership of forestland to guard against logging and other urban perils. On the other hand, Marshall acknowledges the persistence of nature. "The death of the forest and the death of man are not quite the same," he writes. "When a man dies it is the end."( Lauren Porcaro)
This book is a wonderful follow-up to Pakenham's first book, Meetings with Remarkable Trees, which captured the spirit of 60 remarkable trees in Ireland and Britain. For four years, Pakenham traveled the world beyond Ireland and Britain to photograph and learn the stories of 60 of his favorite trees, and his readers will feel like they have accompanied him to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. This book is well and appropriately named, for not only are the 60 trees Pakenham describes and photographs remarkable, so is his writing style and attitude toward the trees. The book has been published with high-quality photography reproduction and paper. Unlike many so-called "coffee table books," this one will actually be read because the author's style is so engaging. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Norton, 191p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
— Nola Theiss
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Following Meetings with Remarkable Trees (Random, 1998), which features trees in Britain and Ireland, this book sets out to discover more such natural wonders elsewhere. In Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, he finds 60 commanding giants and dwarfs, Methuselahs, shrines, and "dream" trees of many kinds. Whether he is meeting baobabs, sequoias, or banyans, he finds magnificence, beauty, and, sometimes, sadness. He has a genius for communicating his sense of each tree as an individual being, engendering wonder, awe, and respect for it in readers. His thoughtful but brisk narratives bring his travels to life and readers feel that they are participants in an adventure as he experiences trees, their ecological and historical contexts, and the challenges of creating photographs of such difficult and special subjects. And Pakenham's color photographs are truly remarkable as he conveys the tactile aspect of bark, the sense of size or majesty, or the rare moment when the light is just right to capture the spirit of the tree. Chapters are further enhanced with historical illustrations (often, earlier views of the same trees) and snippets of poetry ranging from Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Ogden Nash. Pakenham ends with a chapter on "Trees in Peril." This beautiful and unique book is sure to be appreciated by nature lovers. And though it is a highly personal work and not a scientific text, it demonstrates keen and accurate observation; it could also serve as an excellent supplement to studies in science, history, and geography.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
New York Times
Spectacular...the specimens photographed here are surpassingly bizarre and varied....[An] astonishing collection.— Janet Maslin
American Gardener
“Informative and inspiring.”
Discover magazine
Pakenham captures [the trees' character] expertly in his text and photographs....truly remarkable.— Maia Weinstock
The New York Review of Books
Pakenham captures [the trees' character] expertly in his text and photographs....truly remarkable.— Tim Flannery
Janet Maslin - New York Times
“Spectacular...the specimens photographed here are surpassingly bizarre and varied....[An] astonishing collection.”
Maia Weinstock - Discover magazine
“Pakenham captures [the trees' character] expertly in his text and photographs....truly remarkable.”
Tim Flannery - The New York Review of Books
“Pakenham captures [the trees' character] expertly in his text and photographs....truly remarkable.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393325294
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/19/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 279,307
  • Product dimensions: 9.60 (w) x 11.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Pakenham's Meetings with Remarkable Trees received international acclaim. His other books include Remarkable Trees of the World, The Boer War and The Scramble for Africa, which won the Alan Paton Award. He lives in London.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 6
1 Giants
Last of the Maori Gods 14
The Hyena and the Baobabs 19
Saving the Great Mother Goddess 26
Any Fool Can Climb a Gum Tree 30
Redwoods with Heads in the Clouds 32
Nectar at the House of Representatives 36
The Bachelor and the Three Graces 39
The Cedars They Turned into Totems 42
The Tree That Looks Like a Troll 44
Sherman v. Grant in the Sierras 47
At the Feet of the Emperor 51
2 Dwarfs
For Fear of Little Men
No Love Lost Between the Brothers 57
Bury Me in a Tomb of Granite 58
The Golden Cup of Joshua Tree Park 61
The Beachcomber of Monterey 62
In Bondage
Tie up My Feet, Darling, and I'll Live for Ever 68
3 Methuselahs
The Living and the Dead
The Old Man and the Mountain 74
The Kvilleken and the Green Man 78
Parsifal and the Holy Grail 81
They Say You Knew Julius Caesar 82
Justice under the Oak 84
Did the Dragon Grow a New Head? 86
First a Staff, Then a Leaning Tower 90
How They Saved the Chapel Oak 92
The Tree from the Tree Where Buddha Sat 94
The Tree of the Great Healer 98
Tulips Too High for the Bees 100
The Tree with Nine Wives 102
Bowing Politely to the Camphor Trees 105
Homage to a Tree Like Proteus 108
The Other Tree under Which Buddha Sat 110
4 Dreams
The Men They Locked into Trees 116
The Pink Beanstalks of Rotorua 120
A Line in Defence of the Governor 122
St Anthony's American Bouquet 125
A Fossil Aussie for Bussaco? 126
Knees-up at Santorso 128
Lovers and Dancers
Kiss me, I'm a Baobab 132
When the Band Played in the Tree 135
Snakes and Ladders
The Tree that Became a Village 138
The 800 Corkscrews of Verzy 140
Where Angels Didn't Fear to Tread 142
Trust Me, I'm a Python 144
Going down, not Coming up 146
Two Serpents in the Garden 148
Failing David Douglas 154
When Moses Followed Joshua 158
The Girl Who Lay under the Banyans 161
A Tomb with a View 162
5 Trees in Peril
Do the Loggers Always Win?
Ashes to Ashes 168
The Vanishing Totara 170
The Man Who Fought with Giants 172
Lay My Bones at Nolan Creek 174
Ten Green Bottles
Spirits of the Forest 178
The Elephant with Only One Foot 180
Sunset for the Baobabs of Morondava 182
Gazetteer 186
Bibliography 188
Illustration credits 188
Index 189
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2004

    Timegates to Lost Worlds

    When the Pharoah Khafre came to power in Ancient Egypt near 2575 BC, at least one of the Bristlecones of the White Mountains in California was near 20 years old...and it is still here. Trees do speak, perhaps not with words, but certainly through life itself. However, with the work of Thomas Pakenham, the Trees do speak again, yes, with words and phenomenal photography. Perhaps we will listen this time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2004


    There is not much to say except that this has got to be one of THE most beautiful books I have ever opened. Awe-inspiring. The book is fascinating, but the pictures take you there - right beneath the boughs of these mighty, strong, knarled and ancient inspirations. Sad, tho, that future generations will most likely only be able to see these wonderful trees in books.

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