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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, Colin Tudge travels 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.


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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, Colin Tudge travels 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.

30 review for The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michal Wigal

    The first 100 pages contain everything you've ever wanted to know about trees. The next 200 pages contain everything you've never wanted to know about trees. The final 100 pages are a pretty informative look at how humans use trees and the role they can play in climate change.

  2. 4 out of 5

    AudioBookReviewer

    My original The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge doesn’t list that it is an ordered history of trees. But, the lack of order makes this book less a factual text than winding inquiry. If you’ve ever walked into a forest and started asking the big questions, and started answering them, you’ll g My original The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge doesn’t list that it is an ordered history of trees. But, the lack of order makes this book less a factual text than winding inquiry. If you’ve ever walked into a forest and started asking the big questions, and started answering them, you’ll get a feel for how this book works. At eight minutes shy of twenty hours, the book is comprehensive, but not cumbersome. I listened to the book on my way up and down a bike trail that stretches a marathon’s distance to a 13 story bridge that spans the Des Moines River valley. I started paying attention to the trees on the way up and down that trail in a different way. I didn’t start recognizing trees and start spouting Latinate names, but gained an appreciation for the difficulty one has in giving names to living things’ relationships. The book asks direct questions with few words that lead to graduate-level philosophic answers rooted in facts. I’m paraphrasing, but some of the questions include: How do we define a tree? Why isn’t a banana plant a tree? Why are there different names for the same tree? Tudge is both thorough and clever with his answers. As I listened to the book I found myself longing to speak to other people and ask them what they thought. Where textbook chapters represent pieces of a large body of information, The Tree takes a single idea, and expands, builds, and welcomes divergent ideas. One divergent idea is the move from appreciating trees as an environmentalist advocate might, because humans would die without them. Instead, like Muir, Tudge humanizes trees and their plight against other evils besides humans. We don’t often think trees have natural predators. Tudge adds a wisdom that trees have in working with other tree species and animal to survive. Trees are cooperative, dynamic, and on a time scale greater than our human lifetimes. Should you invest in this book? It depends on what you hope to get out of a comprehensive history. If you want efficiency in learning about trees, the book will disappoint. It is not a textbook or guide. But if you can let go of efficiency, listen on headphones while walking through trees or closing your eyes in a concrete urban place, you will find yourself asking to bring others into the story. The book is vibrant with detail, soaked in clever language, and solid with a scientist’s backing. In short, The Tree is long on what makes audiobooks brilliant, a chance to relax and just let someone else talk without wanting or trying to interrupt. After this long journey alone with The Tree, you may want to take the next audiobook trek with a human. I recommend Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman narrated by Mike Chamberlain or Lab Girl, written and narrated by Hope Jahren. Narrator Review Be prepared to relax, there is no hurry in this Scottish narrator’s voice and he takes his commas and periods seriously. At first, you’ll notice the narrator, his cadence contrasts that of most audiobooks, but gradually he becomes a cooling tree’s shadow. Most good books begin in media res, the middle of the action. With a book like this, Enn Reitel becomes the great asset, letting the listener know it is a twenty-hour hike, no need to sprint at the start. Soon after you put the headphones in, he becomes funny, in an understated way, hitting the scientific punchlines Tudge wrote expertly. You’re walking through the forest with your new best friend upset to leave at the end. Audiobook was provided for review by the publisher.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paula Koneazny

    My current writing obsession is trees, which, of course, requires that I read about trees. I found Colin Tudge's compendium to be comprehensive & utterly fascinating (I admit to nodding off a bit while reading the more technical chapters in which he surveys trees as botanically classified into order, family, & genus--at the same time I was intrigued by many unexpected relationships among both herbaceous & woody species). Although Tudge doesn't mention Canadian tree ecologist Diana Beresford-Krue My current writing obsession is trees, which, of course, requires that I read about trees. I found Colin Tudge's compendium to be comprehensive & utterly fascinating (I admit to nodding off a bit while reading the more technical chapters in which he surveys trees as botanically classified into order, family, & genus--at the same time I was intrigued by many unexpected relationships among both herbaceous & woody species). Although Tudge doesn't mention Canadian tree ecologist Diana Beresford-Krueger, his comments on the necessity of intelligent forestry & sustainable tree cropping (past & future) & their foundational importance to human culture & sustenance on Planet Earth, reminded me of Beresford-Krueger's The Global Forest, another favorite read of recent times. Along with another recent read, Charles Mann's 1491, The Tree also caused me to pause & reconsider received notions of both wilderness & the human shaping & management of what we call Nature. I recalled a comment I read long ago (either one made by Joseph Chilton Pierce or Joseph Campbell) that humans' natural home is the Garden, not the Wilderness. Pushing that conclusion even further, I've had to consider the possibility that wilderness may be more mythical than "natural." At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that it is trees, not human beings, that are "ultimately controlling all life on land."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    It's not as good as the cover made it out to be, and it's certainly not a natural history classic, but it's a fun, well-written overview. Part of the problem, I think, is that the task that Tudge set out for himself in surveying all the world's trees is so vast that either the book needed to be much longer, or the project needed to be toned down considerably. There's just not enough detail for this to be really excellent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gendou

    This is an amazing book ruined by its goofball author. Tudge clearly knows a lot about trees. I very much appreciate his writing this book, because I feel like I understand trees a lot better having read it. I learned that many species of plant have independently evolved to be a "tall plant with a stick up the middle" (his definition of a "tree") in convergent evolution. I learned about the practical uses of the fruit, wood, and chemistry of many trees. I got a basic big-picture view of the many This is an amazing book ruined by its goofball author. Tudge clearly knows a lot about trees. I very much appreciate his writing this book, because I feel like I understand trees a lot better having read it. I learned that many species of plant have independently evolved to be a "tall plant with a stick up the middle" (his definition of a "tree") in convergent evolution. I learned about the practical uses of the fruit, wood, and chemistry of many trees. I got a basic big-picture view of the many different families of trees. I was astounded by dizzying family relationships among plant groups. Readers should be warned that the book contains the following anti-intellectual views. 1. Tudge rejects the RNA world hypothesis for the origin of life because RNA is a "highly evolved molecule" (whatever that means) and that RNA "relies on cytoplasm" and can't replicate on it's own (which is false). This is anti-intellectual because he's rejecting consensus biology for what sounds like ideas he got from creationist propaganda. 2. He thinks Golden Rice is only needed because "traditional agriculture has been shoved aside by high-tech industrialized mono-culture farming." This is a cruel lie believed only by the ignorant and privileged. It's slander against the poor and starving. These buzzwords are lifted straight from anti-technology propaganda. Not only is this anti-GMO narrative squarely rejected by a cursory understanding of the history of agriculture, but it's also inextricably part of a greater anti-GMO worldview that is entirely at odds with the scientific consensus. He interjects his opinion that Organic farming is a good thing which is consistent with the anti-GMO worldview and contradicted by basic economic, toxicological, and ecological science. His political ideology is so demented he even argues that less efficient farming is a good thing because "no other industry can employ as many people as farming can" like that's some sort of a good thing. Um, pretty sure people don't want to break their back bending over a rice field their whole life. It's only the single greatest achievement of humankind that people are free from subsistence farming to live the life they choose. 3. He distrusts genetic clocks as the final word in taxonomic classification. He cites the example of the contradictory findings from DNA analysis of archaea. Clearly there is a horizon for the usefulness of genetic clocks and kingdom-level taxonomy is it! This example in no way justifies his anti-intellectual stance that "science does not offer a royal road to truth". First of all, yes it does. Science is a road to truth, and it is unique as the best process so far for finding the truth. He may mean that science has limitations, but those limitations are part of the process of science. They aren't limitations of science, the method, but a description, in scientific terminology, of those limitations that existed in the world even before humans developed the scientific method. When it comes to trees, you can trust genetic clocks as the "royal road to truth" because all trees evolved recently compared to the horizon beyond which genetic clocks are ineffective. 4. He abuses his poetic license, inserting pseudo-philosophy and mysticism where it doesn't belong. He says "the old Greeks were absolutely right" that the world is made of 4 elements: air, earth, fire, and water. He's using this as a metaphor for trees which build their bodies from CO2 (air), minerals (earth), energy from sunlight (fire), and H2O (water). He doesn't explain its only a metaphor, he just asserts "the old Greeks were absolutely right" and moves on. It's bizarre. There are other mentions of theology sprinkled around in the book and it's super creepy. God doesn't belong in a non-Fiction book about trees. 5. He goes on a full-fledged anti-Western tirade at one point and claims what we call "progress" is just "Westernization" and that progress is "being imposed on the world" by a means that "seems expressly designed to undermine the well-being of must of humanity." Hmm, I guess fuck progress, then? Fuck vaccines, sanitation, all that progress stuff? Fuck science, medicine, electric lighting, rule of law, etc.? Grab your tinfoil hats, folks! "The world as a whole needs a different kind of governance." Of course he offers no alternative. Seems like the Dunning Kruger effect in action. "The 'reality' of which our current leaders speak of is 'cash'." Talk about a Straw Man! "Modern, Western-style governments never stop interfering with people's lives." Really? And how much interference would you having in your life without your Western-style government keeping you safe? Career politicians are "reluctant actually to govern." If anyone's been paying attention to politics in the past couple years, you'll notice what happens when you try to "drain the swamp". Power vacuums aren't automatically filled by the enlightened. He's convinced traditional craftsmen are "simply put out of work" by industrialization. I'm not sure everyone wants to be stuck doing the work of a traditional craftsman, but I do know plenty of them are still around. I support paying artists and many hand-made things are truly art. I don't know what any of this political rambling has to do with trees. Authors of non-fiction books should stick to their topic of expertise less they sincerely embarrass themselves like this. 6. Even in his area of expertise, Tudge somehow thinks it's a mere "historical and economic accident" that agriculture is heavily focused on grains as stable crops. Might it also have to do with the years and years it takes to grow trees? Also the yields in terms of calories per acre and calories per input of labor, soil amenities, etc.? A scythe can harvest wheat. What instruments harvest tree fruits/nuts en masse...? He claims with no evidence whatsoever that "if the same effort had been put into the walnut as has been put into wheat, walnut trees would, by now, be taking hundreds of forms." How do we know the latent genetic diversity exists in walnut trees for this to happen? There are thousands of varieties of apple. But they all pretty much taste and grow like apples. The difference between teosinte and corn is unlike any transformation ever seen in a tree in terms of increased yield. I don't know this is impossible. But I do know we need some evidence before believing this bold claims. Personally, I don't believe he has that evidence. I think he's just bluffing. Or, more charitably, accidentally substituting his imagination for knowledge.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Colin Tudge attracted my attention for having written several books about diverse subjects I am fascinated by, not the least of which is trees. In 'The Tree,' Tudge lives up to that promise, proving himself a very likable man who thinks about the world in many ways similarly to the way I do. This is in general a boon, but can be a downfall. The book has no real goal, no thesis, no object. It is a well-organized series of writings about the trees of the world, including explanations of many facet Colin Tudge attracted my attention for having written several books about diverse subjects I am fascinated by, not the least of which is trees. In 'The Tree,' Tudge lives up to that promise, proving himself a very likable man who thinks about the world in many ways similarly to the way I do. This is in general a boon, but can be a downfall. The book has no real goal, no thesis, no object. It is a well-organized series of writings about the trees of the world, including explanations of many facets of what it means to be a tree, portraits of individual trees, and a broad survey of all the tree phyla in the modern world. This middle section seems to have been largely a mistake. The rest of the book proceeds in narrative form through a number of very interesting aspects of the ecology, physiology, evolution, and human relevance of trees. The phylogeny, however, stifles the narrative voice and forces boring listing. I didn't read it, suffice it to say, so I perhaps shouldn't knock it too much. But it reminded me in format much of The Kingdom Fungi, which fell prey to the same impulse. The impulse is noble and I share it: rather than discuss the variety of trees in the world in a series of random groupings, it should be done phylogenetically, to emphasize the relationships among trees. And if you're going about it phylogenetically, you might as well include all the major phyla of trees . . . But how can you provide anything very interesting about all of them, and present all this knowledge in a meaningful way? The answer seems to be that you can't, really. This kind of knowledge, broad but particular, of the whole group of things we call "trees," must be earned through a lifetime of observation, a lifetime of meeting trees. It can't be condensed and transferred in even 150 pages. And it most certainly can't be done without pictures! This is perhaps what killed the middle of the book - there are no pictures to give the reader a taste of the phyla described. The rest of the book, which I read entirely, was great, as I've said. Tudge includes a lot of details, but condenses them into a form that is intuitive and dense with information without becoming slow to read. Much that could have been included was left out - a more in-depth look at the relationship between trees and humans in history, a la A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization, or more detailed coverage of tree ecology, focusing on things like mycorrhizae, or more adequate coverage of tree physiology, including some nice diagrams, like Botany for Gardeners. I could think of dozens of others. The book is very long and quite valuable as it is, but such topics would have better suited Tudge's style (and, I think, the style of books other than field guides and coffee table books in general) than what he chose to do in the middle section of the book. I very much appreciate the fact that Tudge chose to close the book with a serious look at the relationship between the social structure of our civilization and the ecological health of the planet, principally seen, in this, from the point of view of trees. While the fact that the treatment of the issue is necessarily superficial, it acknowledges there is a very big problem in the world of trees, and that it is rooted in economics and culture. Tudge emphasizes, quite astutely, that if that problem can be 'solved,' then many other problems will be solved along with it - exploitation of workers, the indigenous, and poor nations; the food issue; the energy issue; the decline of coherent local communities; etc. It would have been easy for Tudge (or his editors) to say 'let this be a happy book about trees; don't bring up all those controversial bad things - save that for another book.' That he did not indicates some extra goodness in his soil [typo?].

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Who doesn't like trees? Despite that popularity, it is easy to have a rather lopsided understanding of why they matter. Global warming is constantly in the news, so it is commonly known that trees sequester carbon, and so have a beneficial cooling effect on the earth. We know that the roots of trees hold soil in place, and that trees can absorb an enormous quantity of water. So they have a moderating effect on variations of weather. But how many people can identify all the trees found in a local Who doesn't like trees? Despite that popularity, it is easy to have a rather lopsided understanding of why they matter. Global warming is constantly in the news, so it is commonly known that trees sequester carbon, and so have a beneficial cooling effect on the earth. We know that the roots of trees hold soil in place, and that trees can absorb an enormous quantity of water. So they have a moderating effect on variations of weather. But how many people can identify all the trees found in a local park? That's a big change from the past, when so many trades involved trees and their by-products that lots of people could identify many species and describe their best uses. Colin Tudge's book describes many uses of individual species of trees, and also explains their biology and natural history, their cultivation and their cultural significance. Along the way we get an armchair tour through anatomy, genetics, taxonomy, ecology, forestry practices, economy and nearly everything else having to do with trees. He answers some questions that some people may not have thought to ask. For example, why are there relatively few species of trees in a northern forest, especially when compared to the variation found in the tropics? (Greater tropical variation in species happens in all other kingdoms, too.) But while you may not ask it in that form, you may have looked at a piece of furniture at Ikea and wondered what on earth it was made of, assuming not of plastic. There are more kinds of trees than most of us can possibly imagine, and now they're all being used for one thing or another. The products are shipped all over the place. The book is organized into four sections, although the fourth is really an epilogue. The first describes what separates trees from other plants-so taxonomy-and their physiology and evolution. The second section is a one-hundred-forty-page-tour- de-force description of all the trees left in the world, divided up by their taxonomies. In the third section, Tudge describe ecology and reproduction, including the many ways that people have inadvertently or purposefully screwed that up for trees, usually by transporting competitors or pests into an ecological system. In the fourth section, Tudge demonstrates two things: first, that trees interact deeply with political and economic outcomes, and second, that he is happy to oversimplify and generalize such issues to arrive at some weirdly new-age happy talk. For example, "I don't believe the world can get significantly better if we leave politics to career politicians. That is not what democracy means. I also nurse the conceit (for which there is abundant evidence) that human beings are basically good...It seems to follow that if only democracy can be made to work-if the will of humanity as a whole can prevail-then the world could be a far better place: that it could, after all, come through these next few difficult decades... And so he joins Einstein in demonstrating that some scientists shouldn't quit their day jobs to seek elected office. Despite that, the book is terrific, and even the fourth section has lots of interesting, if utopian, perspectives. Read it as you long for spring!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elentarri

    Hmmmmmm..... I have mixed feelings about this book. There is a lot of information about Trees and the writing style isn't bad, but the middle section is rather tedious. The book has a few black and white sketches/illustrations of trees. My edition of the book [ISBN 9780307395399] also has very thin pages (maybe recycled) and a flimsy cover. If you are buying this you may want to get a different edition or the hardcover version. The book is divided into parts: Part 1: What is a Tree? Explains what Hmmmmmm..... I have mixed feelings about this book. There is a lot of information about Trees and the writing style isn't bad, but the middle section is rather tedious. The book has a few black and white sketches/illustrations of trees. My edition of the book [ISBN 9780307395399] also has very thin pages (maybe recycled) and a flimsy cover. If you are buying this you may want to get a different edition or the hardcover version. The book is divided into parts: Part 1: What is a Tree? Explains what a tree is and its structure. This section is very interesting. Part 2: All the Trees in the World. Description of tree classification and trees. Long and tedious. Reminds me of a botany text book without all the coloured photographs. Part 3: The Life of Trees. Describes how trees function, includes photosynthesis, water transfer from roots to leaves, nutrients in the soil, micorrhizae, growth, hormone function, reproduction, pollination, symbiosis, photoperiodism, and biogeagraphy. This is also a very interesting section that is nicely explained - the best part of the book in my opinion. Part 4: Trees and Us. Concluding section that provides food for thought about our relationship with trees and the earth. If all you are after is how trees function then I recommend Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon. Botany for Gardeners Otherwise, The Tree by Colin Tudge is a nice addition to the reference library.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J.V. Connors

    If you love trees, this book is a must-read, for it will astound you! This fascinating book uses trees to illuminate evolution and the ways the life works in the world, so in the end, you learn a lot more than just about trees. Colin Tudge also teaches us about the incredible strength and complexity of trees. We learn about how trees communicate with each other and interact with other plants and animals in their environment. He tells how they cope with adversity, cooperate and even help each othe If you love trees, this book is a must-read, for it will astound you! This fascinating book uses trees to illuminate evolution and the ways the life works in the world, so in the end, you learn a lot more than just about trees. Colin Tudge also teaches us about the incredible strength and complexity of trees. We learn about how trees communicate with each other and interact with other plants and animals in their environment. He tells how they cope with adversity, cooperate and even help each other. Human beings have worshiped our own great brains and driving ambitions, but look at what we have done to our planet over our 50,000 years of existence! Trees build soil, improve rain and water ecologies, and provide habitat for hundreds of species. Perhaps we need to refocus our attention on nature, on how it builds and heals itself? The Tree is a wonderful way to learn about this essential group of species with fascination, respect and humor.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Most of this book was a stamp collector's approach to natural history - the book equivalent of a tiny old museum whose glass-cased curios are carefully labeled with their Latin binomials but otherwise provided with little context (and even less narrative). Except instead of actually seeing the interesting wood or majestic growth form or whatever of the trees, you get the author's tell-don't-show assurances that he personally saw this or that tree once and enjoyed the experience. If you slog thro Most of this book was a stamp collector's approach to natural history - the book equivalent of a tiny old museum whose glass-cased curios are carefully labeled with their Latin binomials but otherwise provided with little context (and even less narrative). Except instead of actually seeing the interesting wood or majestic growth form or whatever of the trees, you get the author's tell-don't-show assurances that he personally saw this or that tree once and enjoyed the experience. If you slog through that there's a very good chapter on fig wasps. Maybe just skip to that part.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    For those looking for a comprehensive book on literally anything to do with trees — this is it! I love trees beyond easy comprehension and it was glorious to read a book that reveled in that love too. I could easily tell the author and I would get along like a house on fire. The audiobook narrator made this particularly enjoyable — he reminded me of the guy who narrates the Kurzgesagt videos on YouTube. (Not the same person though; I checked.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nola

    The Tree starts out with a simple question: what is trees, which like many simple questions, is very difficult to answer. I would have a hard time coming up with a definition. Colin Tudge explains why it is difficult and comes up with a practical working definition of a tree. Then he goes into why tree forms work and how trees interact with the environment. Next he gives an overview of the state of the art in estimating the number of species of trees and their classification and then a history o The Tree starts out with a simple question: what is trees, which like many simple questions, is very difficult to answer. I would have a hard time coming up with a definition. Colin Tudge explains why it is difficult and comes up with a practical working definition of a tree. Then he goes into why tree forms work and how trees interact with the environment. Next he gives an overview of the state of the art in estimating the number of species of trees and their classification and then a history of their evolution and then their structure. The second part of the book goes through the classification of trees from the first part, and goes into detail on some of the trees within the classifications. “The grandest of the grand is Tane Mahuta: it is 51.5 meters tall, its lowest branches are nearly 18 meters above the ground, and its trunk is 13.77 meters in girth-nearly 4.5 meters in diameter-which means it would touch all four wall if planted in an average suburban living room…Tane Mahuta is reckoned to be 1,500 years old. The last part of the book goes into detail about the ecology of various types of trees throughout the world, and, as the preface says, it is about the uses that humans make of them and why they must be conserved. The book is written with great clarity and far-reaching knowledge. The preface articulates very well the purpose of the book: “Science in the service of appreciation, and appreciation in the service of reverence, which, in the face of wonders that are not of our making, is our only proper response.” The author accomplished this by finding and identifying fascinating trees and by finding words that can convey the uniqueness and variety of tree species. It would be easy to make this book a boring list of trees or clumsy explanations that make the eyes glaze over, but that didn’t happen. Tudge starts to get a bit parenthetical at times, but that didn’t quite get to the point that it slowed the book down. Second Reading: I read this book again to feed my growing interest in trees, and found that I pretty much didn’t remember anything from the first time I read it. It was, however, just as wonderful to read the second time. This time I hope to be able to remember at least which is xylem and which is phloem. There are an amazing myriad of facts in this book, all presented clearly in a logical order and with enthusiasm. I do wish he had discussed the boojum tree. I just heard of this tree, and it is certainly fascinating enough that I would like to read more about it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fernleaf

    An interesting treatise on trees around the world. Roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with definitions, naming, evolution and what really defines trees from other plants (wood) with lots of little trivia thrown in. The middle section is a broad survey of the world's tree diversity following the taxonomic tree. This part is fairly dry with LOTS of latin names as it's primarily dealing with trees at the order, family, and genus level. Relevant common names and references are thro An interesting treatise on trees around the world. Roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with definitions, naming, evolution and what really defines trees from other plants (wood) with lots of little trivia thrown in. The middle section is a broad survey of the world's tree diversity following the taxonomic tree. This part is fairly dry with LOTS of latin names as it's primarily dealing with trees at the order, family, and genus level. Relevant common names and references are thrown in wherever possible but just because of the scope that isn't always available. Having taken a couple of botany courses I was able to follow most of it, but a layperson is probably going to feel a bit lost and/or spend a lot of time with Wikipedia or another internet source to make the names more tangible. The final section deals with both general tree biology and the future of trees (climate change, logging, importance of trees to humanity.) Very interesting information but not the most friendly sit-down-and-read book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    I really enjoyed this one. A great popular science book on trees. It explains kinds of trees, Life cycle, anatomy and biology. It does so in a lyrical way often digressing into parts about how trees were used in history and there are many references to other fields like philosophy, history, and art. A very pleasurable read and I now can tell a dicot from a monocot. Update February 22, 2017 On listening to this book on audible years later I got much more out of it. With a proviso, readers will lik I really enjoyed this one. A great popular science book on trees. It explains kinds of trees, Life cycle, anatomy and biology. It does so in a lyrical way often digressing into parts about how trees were used in history and there are many references to other fields like philosophy, history, and art. A very pleasurable read and I now can tell a dicot from a monocot. Update February 22, 2017 On listening to this book on audible years later I got much more out of it. With a proviso, readers will like the first part and the last part a great deal and will benefit much from the information, however the middle part which attempts to list and describe every kind of tree in the taxonomy of trees a bit long and drawn out and not helpful. If one persists to the end this book is definitely worth it. I learned a great deal in the latter third of the book about the workings of trees and how they fit in the scheme of evolution and ecology.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maddy

    I learned so much fascinating shit from this book. Wasps and figs, why deciduous leaves turn brown in autumn, why so many plants in the rainforests colour their new growth red, natural history, how awesome conifers are, the crazy ingenous root system of redwoods. I even learned more about eucalypts, which I knew pretty damn well already (on account of having several hundred in the few acres around me). The prose is often clunky (e.g. 'Still, though, it is not true, as has often been argued of la I learned so much fascinating shit from this book. Wasps and figs, why deciduous leaves turn brown in autumn, why so many plants in the rainforests colour their new growth red, natural history, how awesome conifers are, the crazy ingenous root system of redwoods. I even learned more about eucalypts, which I knew pretty damn well already (on account of having several hundred in the few acres around me). The prose is often clunky (e.g. 'Still, though, it is not true, as has often been argued of late, that...') and select sentences are very awkward to read: Tudge is obviusly a scientist first and an author second. But that doesn't take away from the overall value of the book. The structure is odd, and I think the tree families are given too much time - or perhaps too little that makes them engaging. Overall, though, I really appreciated this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    I loved this book but it is so detailed that I had to skip over several sections; there was no way I'd remember all of the details. On the other hand, I'll treasure this book as a reference for later. If I want to know more about the rose family, I know exactly where I'll go first. Tudge offers wonderful descriptions of what I assume are all the families of trees. It makes for much less dry reading than an encyclopedia would. Regarding the final chapter: I can't stop thinking about how Tudge det I loved this book but it is so detailed that I had to skip over several sections; there was no way I'd remember all of the details. On the other hand, I'll treasure this book as a reference for later. If I want to know more about the rose family, I know exactly where I'll go first. Tudge offers wonderful descriptions of what I assume are all the families of trees. It makes for much less dry reading than an encyclopedia would. Regarding the final chapter: I can't stop thinking about how Tudge details the importance of trees and I appreciate his enthusiasm for hope in the planet's future being tree-based. But I find it hard to be as confident as he is considering the challenges we face and our desire for the easy way out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    Well, the author is extraordinarily knowledgeable and passionate about trees and I learned a great deal while reading this book. Unfortunately, he's overly chatty in a way that feels like he presumes much about our relationship, mainly that the reader will find him all sorts of witty and wonderful. Ugh. It could be a personality conflict-I love Nicholas Basbanes and he tends to do the same thing, though I don't find myself considering him a twit. At any rate, the short version: lots of interesti Well, the author is extraordinarily knowledgeable and passionate about trees and I learned a great deal while reading this book. Unfortunately, he's overly chatty in a way that feels like he presumes much about our relationship, mainly that the reader will find him all sorts of witty and wonderful. Ugh. It could be a personality conflict-I love Nicholas Basbanes and he tends to do the same thing, though I don't find myself considering him a twit. At any rate, the short version: lots of interesting information and an overly verbose author. If anyone wants this book, let me know. I'm not inclined to keep it, even as a reference tool.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Valuable resource for anyone interested in trees This book is a treasure for anyone, lay person or professional, who loves trees or is merely fascinated with the amazing forms of life that trees are. But it is more than that. Colin Tudge is not only an expert on trees, he is an evolutionary biologist of the first water, as can be learned from reading just this book, and as can be discerned by looking at a list of the books he has published. Here's an example of his deep understanding of biology: Valuable resource for anyone interested in trees This book is a treasure for anyone, lay person or professional, who loves trees or is merely fascinated with the amazing forms of life that trees are. But it is more than that. Colin Tudge is not only an expert on trees, he is an evolutionary biologist of the first water, as can be learned from reading just this book, and as can be discerned by looking at a list of the books he has published. Here's an example of his deep understanding of biology: "In truth, the essence of life is metabolism--the interplay of different molecules to form a series of self-renewing chemical feedback loops that go around and around and around. And they do this simply because, chemistry being what it is, such a modus operandi is chemically possible, and what is possible sometimes happens." (p. 58) And I might add, given enough time, what is possible probably will happen. Here's another (the book is filled with deep insights into the nature of life): while speaking of the nitrogen-fixing Frankia (compared to the more common nitrogen fixing Rhizobium) as "yet another, stunning case of convergent evolution," he adds that we see "yet again, the propensity of organisms--one might almost say their eagerness--to cooperate." (p. 187) The book is in four parts: Part I "What Is a Tree?" consists of four chapters describing and explaining how a tree functions and how trees are constructed and why they behave the way they do. Additionally, Tudge shows how trees differ from grasses, herbs, shrubs, etc. Part II "All the Trees in the World," is taxonomy, six dense chapters giving the nomenclature, scientific names and descriptions of the trees, where they grow, how plentiful they are, and how they evolved from earlier types and became distributed the way they are. Tudge includes some chat about differences of opinions among botanists; he shares some history and anecdotes while somehow managing to make the naming and classification of orders, classes, families, genera, species, etc., interesting. I was surprised to learn (amateur that I am) that trees can have a familial relationship to herbs and vegetables such as with legumes. Part III "The Life of Trees" has three chapters and concentrates on the ecology of trees, how they are pollinated and how they get their sees distributed and how they interact with symbionts, parasites, and mutualists. Included is an interesting section on figs and their unique wasp pollinators. The effect of fire and grazing is discussed. Part IV "Trees and Us," contains a single chapter, "The Future with Trees," in which Tudge argues persuasively for "agroforestry," which is the simultaneous use of land for both growing trees and other agricultural products, including cows (who appreciate the shade) and free range chickens (who appreciate the cover), and pigs (who appreciate the acorns in oak woodlands), and smaller trees, like coffee trees (which give a better bean because of the shade). With the disadvantages of monoculture (disease, heavy reliance on fossil fuel fertilizers, economic hardships for many, riches for the few, etc.) becoming more and more apparent, agroforestry is a huge step in the right direction. I would recommend that the reader begin with Part I "What Is a Tree?" but then skip to Parts III and IV "The Life of Trees," and "Trees and Us," and only then delve into nomenclatural thickets of Part II "All the Trees in the World." There are some exquisite black and white line drawings of trees by Dawn Burford scattered throughout the text. Back matter includes "Notes and Further Reading," a glossary and an index. This is the first of Colin Tudge's books that I have read. It won't be the last. --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in botany, ecology, or biogeography – the author touches on all three disciplines, and many others, in this sweeping if a bit pellmell survey of the plants we call trees. Of which there are an absolute assload. Indeed Tudge has trouble even getting started – he spends the first quarter of the book discussing all the different technical and colloquial definitions of the word "tree" and how they all fail to be universally satisfactory, which might imm This is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in botany, ecology, or biogeography – the author touches on all three disciplines, and many others, in this sweeping if a bit pellmell survey of the plants we call trees. Of which there are an absolute assload. Indeed Tudge has trouble even getting started – he spends the first quarter of the book discussing all the different technical and colloquial definitions of the word "tree" and how they all fail to be universally satisfactory, which might immediately alienate the reader who doesn't really care about the identity complex and just wants to hear about maples and cedars and aspens already. But once it gets going, his whirlwind tour of the Earth's enormous arboreal diversity is lucid in its systematicity (gymnos -> magnoliids -> monocots -> eudicots) and engaging in its spotlighting of the most interesting and relevant trees in each taxon, from the Arecales to the Zingiberales and everything in between. The spotlight mostly falls on species and genera of the greatest ecological or economic importance (pine, rubber, teak, eucalyptus, beech, oak, fig, bamboo, etc.) but also occasionally devotes stage time to taxa of quirky or superlative interest (Sequoia, Podocarpus, Fitzroya, Agathis, Adansonia, etc.). Of course he is compelled to leave out a lot – there are at least 60,000 distinct species of tree in the universe – but all the most well-known names are at least mentioned, and at least a few others will undoubtedly be new even to the veteran horticulturalist. The descriptions invariably eschew rigorous botanical terminology in favor of a few quick words about general appearance and growth habit, which is a good thing considering the insane breadth of diversity Tudge strives to include, and as much text is devoted to geographical context as to morphology and ecology; the entire book has the character of his personal travelogue and floral bucket list. His classification scheme will probably irk hardline APG boosters, but, as a biologist who believes that accurately sorting all the world's living things into discrete castes is very near the bottom of the list of interesting and productive uses of human scientific endeavor, I was personally not at all frustrated by the phylogenetics. The rest of the book concerns how trees do all of the mundane and remarkable things that they do, the story of their lives at all levels, molecular to planetary, which Tudge implies is really the story of plants in general: trees do all the same things other plants do, just on a (much) grander and longer scale, and so they are the world's botanical exemplars. If you can understand trees, he seems to say, you’re well on your way to understanding any plant. They also, of course, do a lot of things other plants don’t do, and he picks some revealing examples to make this point as well, the miracle of wood being chief among them. Other themes include the complex interplay of the five major plant hormones in regulating growth and development; the age-old trick of outsourcing nutrition management to mycorrhizal fungi and nodule-bound bacteria; and the mysterious origins of tropical hyper-diversity, for which Tudge synthesizes most of the leading hypotheses and concludes, rightly I believe, that parasite pressure and periodic high-latitude winnowing account for most of it. Also of note is a very nicely done overview of the delicate triangular symbiosis between fig trees, their wasp pollinators, and the fig-wasp’s nematode parasites, which illustrates beautifully the tendency of co-evolved systems to teeter constantly and precariously between respectful interdependence and stealthy duplicity. Finally, Tudge explores the implications of climate change, the complexions of which, he suggests, are more tangled and incalculable for trees than for just about any other organism liable to suffer great climatic depredation in the coming decades. From here he ventures an op-ed on the balancing of environmental sanctity and economic appetite – at times straying rather far from his usual equanimity with saucy exhortations against the western capitalist ethos, which can feel gratuitous – but I suppose it’s a measure of his commitment to conservationism that he feels the need to go a bit further than simply listing all of the numerous problems faced by forests in a world where humans call most of the shots. Overall The Tree is a worthwhile compendium of keen insights about our woody allies. It might've earned another star had it been just a hair shorter or a fraction less insistent on showcasing the author’s digressive philosophical ponderings at the expense of more case studies from the natural world, but still you’ll find it engrossing if, like me, you love the intermingling of encyclopedic info-loads with romantic glorifications of the Earth’s biochemical brilliance.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ray Francis

    Colin Tudge writes about trees with descriptions and personalities normally employed to described human beings. In many cases, trees, just by dint of their longevity, reveal epic stories of growth, resource wars, and mutualism across the planet’s life forms. Tudge provides a lot of detail about trees, and many sections feel like one might be drinking from a fire hose. The slog is worth it. He goes through the various sorts of trees and discusses how trees adapted to changing climate conditions a Colin Tudge writes about trees with descriptions and personalities normally employed to described human beings. In many cases, trees, just by dint of their longevity, reveal epic stories of growth, resource wars, and mutualism across the planet’s life forms. Tudge provides a lot of detail about trees, and many sections feel like one might be drinking from a fire hose. The slog is worth it. He goes through the various sorts of trees and discusses how trees adapted to changing climate conditions and how they struggle today in human-created climate change. The coda to this book comes in detailed consideration of how important trees are to human kind and how their unique abilities can further help make this planet more wonderful. Trees, like humans, developed within a narrow band of acceptable atmospheric conditions (the end of last ice age, for example, likely contained only 190 parts per million units of carbon dioxide and at the start of the Industrial Revolution the atmosphere held around 270 ppm). We have an understanding of the floor of conditions suitable for human life on this planet and today we tinker with the ceiling (today’s number is 410 ppm of carbon dioxide and climbing). The unsustainable stress this puts the planet under threatens humane existence; it threatens, more plainly, existence. Things will survive and adapt to a carbon dioxide rich environment, humans, trees, and many other life forms just aren’t among those survivors.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cade

    This book is largely a paean to trees. The author's appreciation is so heartfelt that it is kind of endearing. However, his vision of some post-materialistic future utopia fueled by trees is so facile that it more invites indulgence than rebuttal or disagreement. The trees themselves certainly do have many intrinsically interesting features. The best parts in this book are the ones where the author describes them, especially with case studies of specific tree features, adaptations, and ecological This book is largely a paean to trees. The author's appreciation is so heartfelt that it is kind of endearing. However, his vision of some post-materialistic future utopia fueled by trees is so facile that it more invites indulgence than rebuttal or disagreement. The trees themselves certainly do have many intrinsically interesting features. The best parts in this book are the ones where the author describes them, especially with case studies of specific tree features, adaptations, and ecological niches. The middle third where he basically just lists every family of trees in paragraph form was surprisingly readable for what it is which unfortunately means it was still pretty hard to slog through.

  22. 5 out of 5

    jrendocrine

    I turned to this after reading Hope Jahrens' Lab Girl, thinking that my tree knowledge was nonexistent. This was a start... but.. Didn't matter that I read this on the Kindle - there were not enough pictures. The documentation of taxonomy is excessive without pictures and diagrams. The science was tantalizing but not enough. Same for how trees are used. Overall, got me interested in botany. I have bought a freshman botany textbook, and will read it, and this is the best recommendation I can give Tu I turned to this after reading Hope Jahrens' Lab Girl, thinking that my tree knowledge was nonexistent. This was a start... but.. Didn't matter that I read this on the Kindle - there were not enough pictures. The documentation of taxonomy is excessive without pictures and diagrams. The science was tantalizing but not enough. Same for how trees are used. Overall, got me interested in botany. I have bought a freshman botany textbook, and will read it, and this is the best recommendation I can give Tudge's idea book which might have been better as a long essay. (Although if I was walking through any botanical garden or forest, I would love to walk alongside the author.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    chris mukhar

    I enjoyed this book. It was a little tough to get through the taxonomy of all the different tree life. He literally goes family by family for a lot of the book. But I still learned a lot and the evolutionary process is interesting, especially how different families co-evolved different things independently. The real charm of the book is in the latter half of the book where he talks about the role of humans in the life of trees and how we interact with them (logging, globalization, climate change I enjoyed this book. It was a little tough to get through the taxonomy of all the different tree life. He literally goes family by family for a lot of the book. But I still learned a lot and the evolutionary process is interesting, especially how different families co-evolved different things independently. The real charm of the book is in the latter half of the book where he talks about the role of humans in the life of trees and how we interact with them (logging, globalization, climate change) and how we can do better. I'm worried about trees and our future with them. It will be interesting to see how it works out!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jo Leadbetter

    This book is primarily a Scientific text set in a sea of gorgeous and tantalising information for the non-scientific reader. I wish I remembered some of the facts and trivia contained within, but it's too much for my tiny mind to contain! Tudge kept me involved despite me not studying for an environmental or biology degree by throwing me real life, downright fascinating information. I loved trees anyway, not for any obvious reasons as " they are beautiful" or " they help us breathe", but somethi This book is primarily a Scientific text set in a sea of gorgeous and tantalising information for the non-scientific reader. I wish I remembered some of the facts and trivia contained within, but it's too much for my tiny mind to contain! Tudge kept me involved despite me not studying for an environmental or biology degree by throwing me real life, downright fascinating information. I loved trees anyway, not for any obvious reasons as " they are beautiful" or " they help us breathe", but something to do with the wisdom and magesty and mystery that they exude. I had a dream as a kid to write a book about trees, this is would be the scientific version of that book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    A beautifully written natural history of trees. Lots of fascinating stories and facts. The author brings together geology, ecology, history, and sociology in very straightforward ways to make amazing connections across disciplines, much like the trees make connections between the soil and the sky and all things between. The catalog of trees was a little bit tedious and could have used some more illustrations in my opinion, but I'm glad that it went through every single group of plants to put the A beautifully written natural history of trees. Lots of fascinating stories and facts. The author brings together geology, ecology, history, and sociology in very straightforward ways to make amazing connections across disciplines, much like the trees make connections between the soil and the sky and all things between. The catalog of trees was a little bit tedious and could have used some more illustrations in my opinion, but I'm glad that it went through every single group of plants to put the trees into context and plants in general. All in all, a great natural history of trees.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Rozen

    This book is just OK. With such a vast topic to discuss as trees, you have one of two choices as an author: choose a single focus (or small number)and discuss that really well, or broadly discuss the entire scope with little detail. This author made the second choice, and it made for an annoying read. Very often a type of tree would be described, categorized, perhaps we are given an interesting fact, and then we would move on to another family.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Colby

    Gripping! Yes, gripping; not a technical, boring treatise (although enough science to quash the doubters). Gripping, like a well-paced mystery novel: how did this come about? what's next? surely not! That sort of read. Best read in bits; each chapter - easy reading as prose - has enough information as a university-semester. 'Trees' are the focus, naturally, but Tudge roams all over. An intellectual feast.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maris

    Very interesting and charming intro. Unfortunately you are then plunged into a survey of all trees, which may possibly be the most mind-numbing reading experience of your life, apart from poorly-written science journal articles. I know there's supposed to be another topic at the end of the book, but I simply can't do it. I can't finish it. I don't ever want to read about trees again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danil Boukhvalov

    Some interesting points but. Those environmentalism. I tired from this. But good point that the author mentioned some uncertainties in the models. But to much agitprop. Another weak point is just list of species, groups, families. Very poor organizing of the book as nonfiction (maybe this is the minus of audio-version). But the heroes of the book those magnificent trees save the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Interesting passages and information here and there. I didn't find it to have much of a narrative flow. More than the first half was page by page going through characteristics of different families or other categories and then the remainder was more like a series of essays. Not bad but maybe I was expecting something a bit different.

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