- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Greystone Books / David Suzuki Foundation; 1 edition (Sept. 7 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1553650166
- ISBN-13: 978-1553650164
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 1.9 x 19.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Tree: A Life Story Hardcover – Sep 7 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Visitors to the Pacific Northwest often find themselves awed by the size of the trees, especially the grand and ubiquitous "Douglas-fir." In this slight, lovely book, environmentalist Suzuki (The Sacred Balance) and Grady (The Bone Museum) tell the tale of one Douglas-fir tree that lived for more than five centuries ("Around the time its seed was soaking in the sunshine... the Aztec Empire was building its capital city"). Woven into the narrative is a history of botany, the study of which developed during the trees life (a digression about the Big Bang and the formation of organic molecules feels unnecessary, though). Facts about the species awe: old Douglas-firs can have 12-inch thick fireproof bark, and it can take 36 hours for water to get from the roots to the canopy. "If left alone," write the authors, "our tree would grow forever." Batemans misty drawings offer portraits of the trees companionswoodpeckers, eagles, mice, fernswhose lives are more fleeting. Suzuki and Grady lament the loss of old-growth forests and their biodiversity, showing how each tree is part of a massive, interconnected web of organisms including fungi, birds and insects. This book is both a touching look at a single tree and an articulate testimony to natures cyclic power. 13 b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Trees are among the oldest living organisms on the planet; the oldest tree in North America, a bristlecone pine, may be 4,600 years old. Suzuki and Grady's engaging "biography" covers 700 years in the life of a Pacific Northwest Douglas fir. Each stage in the tree's life is placed not only within the context of history but also an ecological context. When the tree is 15 years old at the end of the Middle Ages, for example, the authors discuss Gutenberg and his printing press, as well as the Douglas fir's primitive form of pollination, by wind, which evolved before there were flying insects. The tree coexists with the pileated woodpecker, the painted suillus mushroom, the lungless salamander, and the bald eagle. After its seven centuries of life, the tree falls to the forest floor to serve as a "nurse log" to young hemlock trees. This happy melding of history, natural history, and biography is further enhanced by Robert Bateman's fine illustrations to create an instructive and graceful look at the interconnectedness of life. Rebecca Maksel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The one tree they've chosen, a Douglas-fir, started long ago, in the age of Edward I of England. The authors give an account of how a Douglas-fir is kick-started by a forest fire. That inferno we all dread is the Douglas-fir's cradle. To massive trees seeking the sun, along with many other species, the removal of the forest canopy grants fresh sunlight and nutrients in the ash that would be otherwise unobtainable. Once growth begins, the young tree sprouts roots into the soil and shoots into the air. Encountering a growing tree, we tend to see it as isolated. Grady and Suzuki quickly disabuse us of that mistake. Trees quickly enter relationships - some with others of their own kind, but also with different species. Fungi, in particular, play a vital role in a tree's life almost from the outset. The fungi bring water and nutrients to the tree, gaining sugars that are the product of photosynthesis. This relationship extends the tree's influence over a vast area. There is also chemical communication with other trees - even those of different species - calling for help or offering information about tree predators.
During the tree's mature years, the old associations are strengthened, and new ones established. As the authors impart what the tree is doing now, they also provide the evolutionary processes that make the tree what it is. Cell growth, water pumping [a process still not entirely understood], and the leafing process are all eloquently described. The science should seem compressed or distorted due to the brevity of this volume. Yet, it flows through the narrative with expressive and informative fluency. Both are experienced writers of science and this collaborative effort is a treasure for any reader.
The science described means those who performed it, whether in field observations or through laboratory effort. Another major element of success here is the relation of various researchers' lives. Many are relatively unknown, with Gregory Fedorovich Morozov likely the most significant of the people Grady and Suzuki bring to light. A Russian geographer, Morozov is described as "the founding spirit of modern ecology", a revelation that's likely to shock Sierra Club members. Morozov first pieced together the intricate relationship a forest tree has with the soil, its neighbours and its offspring. Born in 1867, Morozov had a checkered career, highlighted by a relationship with a revolutionary. Even the toppling of the czars didn't cast him in a favourable light, however, and he died in the Crimea at the young age of fifty-three. Had his work been better known in the West, the ecology movement might have enjoyed a significant boost long before it rose in the mid-Twentieth Century.
There isn't sufficient praise to describe this work. With two ranking science writers and Canada's leading wildlife artist embellishing the text, it's wealth of information, combined with a strong emotional sense of what a forest - and its trees - are all about, this book should be listed with other environmental classics. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
It has a great deal of information about the coastal forest and in particular about the Douglas Fir and the life that surrounds it. Although I know something of trees there was much that was new to me, and much that frankly surprised me.
It is beautifully illustrated by Robert Bateman and altogether would make a wonderful gift for anyone despite its small size.
The text does need severely editing, being obscure in places, and incorrect in others. For instance I was mildly annoyed to find that the conversions from hectares to acres were the wrong way round sometimes.
Overall, though, the book is well worth the money, and doubtless will be improved in the writing of the next edition.
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