Review: Remarkable Trees by Christina Harrison and Tony Kirkham.
Trees are remarkable. As the introduction to this beautiful book notes, they are central to our existence, providing, food, shelter, resins, and materials which we use to support our everyday life. Trees are also incredible examples of evolution. You only have to compare the trees of one climate to another to see that they have adapted to survive in their habitat.
Over 8000 species are currently under threat and yet too often we are unaware of trees, treating them as scenery instead of as living, breathing plants.
This wonderful book, written by two experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, details the lives and plights of over sixty trees.
What is interesting about this book is the sections it is divided into are all about the human relationship with trees. Building And Creating, Feasting And Celebrating, Healers And Killers, Body And Soul, Wonders Of The World, Threatened and Endangered – nearly all of these headings are about our existing knowledge of trees. That the Caco tree creates chocolate, or that Mahogany was once popular for furniture is relatively common knowledge. However, once you reach the pages on the individual trees, you learn not only about the human relationship to the tree but about the plant itself. This is something like moving a lens away from the close-by towards the distance and the unknown.
Even the trees we walk past every day have hidden lives of their own.
Each fact file is three or four pages long and accompanied by full-colour pictures. Headed with the common and Latin name, there is also a single fact away from the main text which stands out to a reader flicking through the book. This not only makes it a great coffee table book, but it is also a wonderful way to hook a reader. I found myself drawn in by these snippets and had to read more.
It is fascinating how much of human history we can learn through the lens of trees. Remarkable Trees touched on trade and diet, literature and religion, all by studying human interaction with trees.
The illustrations are detailed, both the full page botanical drawings and pictures which show the tree in situ, as it were, which help us to build an idea of how trees differ across the world’s habitats. The muted colours and exquisite detail make this the sort of book which you can’t help but pick up.
A stunning non-fiction title or coffee table book. This would make a beautiful gift for anyone with a growing interest in the natural world and reading it reminds us that we live in a truly remarkable world.
Thanks to Thames & Hudson in association with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for my copy of Remarkable Trees. Opinions my own.