Wild Trees

16 August 2008

[[  Most recent Update: 28 September 2012.]]

Wild Trees . . .

. . . a book review.

A few days ago, I finished reading “The Wild Trees” by Richard Preston with maps and illustrations by Andrew Joslin.

If you love plants in general, and trees in particular (or a true story of people doing extraordinary things) get yourself a copy of this book and read it.

Until recently, the tallest redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopies at the tops of these magnificent trees had never been explored. This book unfolds the story of Steve Sillet, Marie Antoine, and a tiny group of botanists and amateur naturalists who found an unexplored world at over 350 feet above California in the tops of the largest and tallest organisms in the world, the coastal redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens.

The canopy voyagers were young college students when they began their quest, and they shared little other than a passion for preserving and studying these trees. What they found in these “meadows in the sky” (my terminology, not theirs) was mosses, lichens, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of soil sitting on massive limbs in the canopies high above the ground. Animal life found in the canopies include earthworms and spotted salamanders as well as copepods living in the moist mosses and in small pools. Imagine that, shrimp-like critters thriving high above the California coastal mountains in the tops of redwood trees!

And there is much more, but I will leave that for you to discover in this fascinating book.

“The Wild Trees” was copyrighted in 2007 by Richard Preston, and was published by Random House / New York.

Here are a couple of quotes from Mr. Preston’s book:

“This book is narrative nonfiction. The characters are real and the events factual, told to the best of my understanding. Passages in which I narrate a person’s thoughts and feelings and present dialogue have been built from interviews with the subjects and witnesses, and have been fact-checked. So many stories never get told. My goal is to reveal people and realms that nobody had ever imagined.”

“Botanists have a tradition of never revealing the exact location of a rare plant. Contact between humans and rare plants is generally risky for the plants. Many of the giant trees I describe in this book, as well as the groves they inhabit, have only recently been discovered, and in some cases have been seen by fewer than a dozen people, including myself. To honor the tradition of botany, I won’t reveal the exact locations of giant trees or groves if these locations have not been previously published.”

Richard Preston not only talks the talk, but “walks the walk”. He learned tree climbing skills and joined these intrepid researchers to climb some of the tallest trees on earth.

“Wild trees”, within the context of this book, means trees that have yet to be climbed.

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About w6bky

Retired 29 May 1987. Now do hobbies: blogging, ham radio, gardening, etc.
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1 Response to Wild Trees

  1. The book was a pretty good read.Preston did break the tradition of botany though, by how much he described about the locations.For those of us familiar with the off-trail parts of the parks as well as satellite images, it was sort of a “gimme”.Hyperion was the last redwood I photographed for this page:Hyperion Redwood and Largest Redwood TreesThis probably works out very well though. A lot of people got the book with no photos. And they are looking online. Now they can see what the trees look like, without a heavy stream of visitors.Also, I was able to put a plug in the page for Gerald Beranek, the first person to actually climb into old growth redwood canopy in the 1970s.Cheers,M. D. Vaden of OregonWeb Surfing


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