The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter

The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter

4.2 8
by Colin Tudge
     
 

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There are redwoods in California that were ancient by the time Columbus first landed, and pines still alive that germinated around the time humans invented writing. There are Douglas firs as tall as skyscrapers, and a banyan tree in Calcutta as big as a football field.

From the tallest to the smallest, trees inspire wonder in all of us, and in The Tree,

Overview

There are redwoods in California that were ancient by the time Columbus first landed, and pines still alive that germinated around the time humans invented writing. There are Douglas firs as tall as skyscrapers, and a banyan tree in Calcutta as big as a football field.

From the tallest to the smallest, trees inspire wonder in all of us, and in The Tree, Colin Tudge travels around the world—throughout the United States, the Costa Rican rain forest, Panama and Brazil, India, New Zealand, China, and most of Europe—bringing to life stories and facts about the trees around us: how they grow old, how they eat and reproduce, how they talk to one another (and they do), and why they came to exist in the first place. He considers the pitfalls of being tall; the things that trees produce, from nuts and rubber to wood; and even the complicated debt that we as humans owe them.

Tudge takes us to the Amazon in flood, when the water is deep enough to submerge the forest entirely and fish feed on fruit while river dolphins race through the canopy. He explains the “memory” of a tree: how those that have been shaken by wind grow thicker and sturdier, while those attacked by pests grow smaller leaves the following year; and reveals how it is that the same trees found in the United States are also native to China (but not Europe).

From tiny saplings to centuries-old redwoods and desert palms, from the backyards of the American heartland to the rain forests of the Amazon and the bamboo forests, Colin Tudge takes the reader on a journey through history and illuminates our ever-present but often ignored companions. A blend of history, science, philosophy, and environmentalism, The Tree is an engaging and elegant look at the life of the tree and what modern research tells us about their future.

Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Royte
The subtitle is as straightforward as can be, but the book is oddly more—a descriptive catalog of all the trees in the world in which Tudge expounds on how many there are in each family, where they grow, their physical characteristics, why they are ecologically or economically important and the tasty details of their sex lives…Tudge, the author of Global Ecology and other books, writes simply and with unapologetic enthusiasm. He also has a sense of humor.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In an elegant tribute to denizens of nature that humans too often take for granted, British biologist Tudge (The Famine Business) presents a wealth of intriguing facts about trees. Basing his information on science and writing "in a spirit of reverence," he explains how biologists identify the different kinds of trees; how trees have evolved over millions of years; how they adapt to their habitats, survive and reproduce. Describing a multitude of species, Tudge emphasizes the distinctive characteristics of each. He marvels, for example, at banyans with their roots hanging down from their branches, palms whose roots grow directly from their trunks, mangroves standing with their roots in the sea, baobabs holding so much water in their swollen trunks that they are extremely resistant to drought, figs in partnership with the minute wasps that pollinate them-"one dedicated species of wasp for each of the 750 species of fig." Tudge concludes with a chapter emphasizing the importance of all types of trees for humankind's well-being-a persuasive call to action for the preservation of the environment so that trees, and humans, can survive. 33 exquisite line drawings. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tudge brings to this study of trees an encyclopedic breadth similar to his earlier magnum opus, The Variety of Life; his purpose, too, is familiar-"science in the service of appreciation, and appreciation in the service of reverence." By science, he means systematic botany, evolution, molecular biology, genetics, geology, chemistry, and ecology; he presents all the findings from diverse branches equally well, rendering complex information in a thoroughly engaging, challenging way. A third of the book represents a survey of world trees. In this section, Tudge aims to "wallow in the glories" of sylvan life, but he's not as good at wallowing as he is at breaking down hard science. The author has met with some remarkable trees in his travels, but given the enormity of his enterprise, he doesn't have time to dawdle properly. Here the book would have benefited from the same elegant graphic design of the aforementioned Variety of Life. That said, Tudge's purpose is fully achieved-attentive readers will not look at trees in quite the same way. An obvious choice for all large and special collections.-Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tree-hugger extraordinaire offers myriad compelling reasons to admire, revere and-yes-hug the nearest trunk. Yet this is no soft, silly paean to treedom. English biologist Tudge (The Impact of the Gene, 2001, etc.) has synthesized volumes of research and presents his resulting work with humor, passion, even panache. He opens with a playful definition, "a tree is a big plant with a stick up the middle," but soon we are deep into the roots of the subject, learning how trees evolved and how scientists continue to try to classify them. The longest, densest section is a 150-page tour of trees, beginning with the conifers and ending with the eudicots, but making instructive sojourns among the old, the tall, the wide and the weird. He describes one flowering tree whose warm blossoms invite beetles to spend the night and have sex; in the morning, covered with pollen, they depart to spread the tree's DNA. The author does his best in these middle pages to thin the academic underbrush, but not always successfully. The brisk pace resumes in the final part; an especially strong chapter describes how trees live-for example, how water can rise from the roots of a redwood to its lofty top. Another fascinating section deals with the social life of trees (they've learned, unlike humans, how to get along . . . usually) and contains a dazzling set piece about the co-evolution of figs and the wasps that feed on them. The end dovetails nicely with Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Global warming threatens trees, which don't adapt quickly to environmental change, and without them, our own once-arboreal species becomes much more vulnerable, Tudge writes. He urges prudent forestry, increased use ofwood products for large buildings and a cold, sober reassessment of the global rush to industrialize. Few books are as relevant for our time as is this one.
From the Publisher
“Enchanting. . . . Tudge sees grandeur in how trees exist in the world . . . and demonstrates it with fascinating stories.” –New York Times Book Review

“Tudge writes in the great tradition of naturalists such as Humboldt and John Muir. . . . Eloquent and deeply persuasive.”–Los Angeles Times

“To be both scientifically literate and lyrically inclined is a unique gift, and justly celebrated whenever we encounter it, in Lewis Thomas, for example, or in Stephen Jay Gould. Colin Tudge is such an individual.”–Melissa Fay Green, Washington Post

"Through its astonishing revelations about what is related to what in the plant world, Colin Tudge's The Tree reawakens the pleasure of those childish games [of classifying animal, vegetable, or mineral]. But The Tree is a far deeper book than this might suggest, for its author has a remarkable ability to ask fundamental questions about trees and their world—questions that, much to our detriment, most of us stopped asking as we grew up. . . . The Tree is full of . . . wonderful scientific facts and folklore. . . . Profound."
-Tim Flannery, New York Review of Books

“English biologist Tudge has synthesized volumes of research and presents his resulting work with humor, passion, even panache. . . . Fascinating. . . . Dazzling. . . . Few books are as relevant for our time as this one.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred

“In an elegant tribute to denizens of nature that humans too often take for granted, British biologist Tudge presents a wealth of intriguing facts about trees. . . . A persuasive call to action for the preservation of the environment so that trees, and humans, can survive.”–Publishers Weekly

‘Page after page of astonishing tree-facts … makes us look anew at the familiar, to understand a little more of the hidden and constantly enacted miracles taking place in the woods all around us’ Sunday Times (UK)

“In this comprehensive book, Tudge combines vast knowledge of evolutionary biology with a gift for storytelling.”–Entertainment Weekly

‘Reminds us just what we spend our lives not knowing, and all of it is not only wondrous and important but entirely free’ Guardian (UK)

‘A love-letter to trees, written with passion and scientific rigour … a pleasure to read. Tudge writes with warmth and wit’ Financial Times (UK)

“Science writer extraordinaire Tudge offers a sumptuously specific tour of the phenomenal world of trees. . . . Tudge’s explanation of how climate change will endanger trees is invaluable. . . . [An] indispensable celebration of one of our most precious resources.”–Booklist, starred

‘Tudge’s delight in the world of trees in infectious’ Herald (UK)

“Dig into Colin Tudge’s lovely new book.” –Daily Telegraph

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307351739
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
10/03/2006
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Colin Tudge started his first tree nursery in his garden at the age of eleven. Always interested in plants and animals, he studied zoology at Cambridge and then began writing about science, first as features editor at the New Scientist and then as a documentary filmmaker for the BBC. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and advisor to several farming and environmental groups. Tudge’s books include The Variety of Life and So Shall We Reap. After traveling the world in search of a deeper understanding of the tree, Tudge is unable to choose a favorite, believing that variety’s the thing. He lives in Oxford, England.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Both informative and beautifully written,Tudge gives us insight to the life of trees that will amaze and amuse. Terrific book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first part sounded childish goldenlion...and he didnt make you a deputy or even co deputy because he would hae been going against warrior code. You havent trained an apprentice yet." she stated gently. "Its not because he doesnt like you or anything but you didnt have the quilifications for it. But your hert was in the right place." She said.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bevause he said he would be there for me annd stuff and he didnt make me deputy or codeputy and he raised he when my father died and now i cant face him bevause i am embarassed i made such a big deal about this.