The Glory of the Tree: An Illustrated History

Hardcover | October 17, 2014

byNoel KingsburyPhotographed byAndrea Jones

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The great trees of the world in glorious color.

The Glory of the Tree describes 90 species of tree that collectively span the millennia of evolution and cross the globe. Organized into six categories -- Antiquity, Ecology, Sacred, Utility, Food and Ornament -- the trees are presented in short chapters that touch on botany, history, culture and more.

An inset box gives the basic characteristics of each tree: family and species, brief description, natural origin, size, potential age and climate. A stunning full-page photograph shows a prime specimen of the tree.

The Glory of the Tree celebrates 90 trees native to regions around the world, including these:

  • Antiquity: Ginkgo, Magnolia, Giant sequoia, Liquidamber, Quaking aspen, Tabaquillo
  • Ecology: Birch, Red maple, Mangrove, Longleaf pine, Eucalyptus, Black locust
  • Sacred: Monkey puzzle, Camphor, American elm (the "Liberty Tree"), Banyan, Cedar of Lebanon
  • Utility: Sycamore, Cork oak, Sugar maple, Ebony, Rubber, Calabash
  • Food: Toddy palm, Date palm, Pecan, Mango, Clove, Indian Jujube
  • Ornament: Lombardy poplar, Mimosa, Handkerchief tree, Japanese Maple, Pagoda, Leyland cypress.

Beyond a glance, how much thought do we give any one tree? Do we know the species' history, what makes it unique, or even why we should care? Do we know that dinosaurs grazed on magnolia blossoms? That only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was it learned that North America's "homegrown" apple, Malus domestica, originated in the fruit forests of Russia? Or that male black mulberry flowers eject pollen at 350 miles per hour -- half the speed of sound, and the fastest movement in the plant kingdom?

The Glory of the Tree reveals all this and much more, in full color. It is a choice selection for arborists, gardeners, tree lovers (and huggers), and all who appreciate the beauty of nature.

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From the Publisher

The great trees of the world in glorious color. The Glory of the Tree describes 90 species of tree that collectively span the millennia of evolution and cross the globe. Organized into six categories -- Antiquity, Ecology, Sacred, Utility, Food and Ornament -- the trees are presented in short chapters that touch on botany, histor...

Dr. Noel Kingsbury is recognized internationally through his many books and journalism as a leading innovator in horticulture, landscape, planting design and plant ecology. His recent books include Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls. He lives in Wales. Andrea Jones is one of the world's foremost garden photographers. Her wor...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 11.5 × 9.5 × 1 inPublished:October 17, 2014Publisher:Firefly BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1770852654

ISBN - 13:9781770852655

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

INTRODUCTION For the vast majority of us, trees are a familiar and inevitable part of the landscape in which we live. Most of us have trees near us, perhaps in our own gardens, and they are an essential part of our lives. The knowledge that in many cases they have been in place for longer than we have, and are likely to outlive us, gives them a special significance, reminding us perhaps of our own relative lack of importance in the great scheme of things. Many of us recall favorite trees from our childhood, the ones we climbed or passed every day on the way to school, or which stood out for some reason as unusual or distinctive. Trees and memories of them are among the links that we use to connect time and place. Trees are an essential part of our sense of place, whether rural or urban, traditional or contemporary. Urban trees are particularly important; they have rarity value and serve as poignant reminders of the wider natural world. It is no surprise that determined campaigns erupt when urban trees are threatened by local government, developers or even disease. We relate to trees very much as individuals; despite their size and form they seem to have almost human characteristics, which gives us all the more reason to defend them when they are threatened. In nature, trees grow alone only rarely. They are collective beings, the constituents of woods and forests, and we only really understand them if we see them as parts of a whole. Yet to fully appreciate their beauty, their majesty and in some cases their great size or immense age, we need to see them on their own, in splendid isolation. In her photography for this book, Andrea Jones captures trees as individuals, with close-up details of their growth. The text, however, aims to take the reader further; to look beyond the visual qualities of individual trees in order to gain a better and deeper understanding of them as plant species that play their part as ecological actors in the web of nature and as participants in the human story. This book is divided into six chapters. In the first chapter, called "Antiquity," we consider the immense age that trees can reach as individuals, but also as species. A surprising number of species can be traced in the fossil record as far back as the days of the dinosaurs. We know this from fossils of the leaves and, sometimes, from their flowers and fruit. At the same time, fossilized pollen provides paleobotanists (people who study fossilized plants) with the opportunity to follow lineages through time, and also through space, and some of the resulting narratives are truly remarkable. In "Ecology" we consider trees as members of plant communities, as part of a web of relationships with other species: other trees, other plants and animals. The study of ecology is partly concerned with the development of communities of living things through time. Some of the tree species we look at are "pioneers" -- they establish rapidly on bare ground, but tend to be displaced later on by longer-lived, dominant species that ecologists call "climax" species. We will come across the term "pioneer" many times when discussing tree species that have become problematic, invading natural habitats in the regions to which they have been introduced. Trees can play an important part in the ecology of the human mind. In "Sacred," we look at trees with important spiritual or mythological roles. Individual trees or entire species have been given a status that gives them a special place in human culture, one that may be completely unrelated to their actual use. Species of practical use, trees that have been invaluable as sources of timber and many other useful products, are looked at in "Utility." Once a tree is felled for timber or any other use, we tend to think of it as dead, but this may not be the case; many trees replace themselves by sending up new shoots. This ability to recover from cutting has been put to great use by humanity, and we will use two terms to describe this process: "coppicing," when the tree is cut down at the base, or "pollarding," when done higher up. "Food" considers the many and varied ways in which we use trees as food sources -- mostly for the more enjoyable items of our diet, such as fruits that our hard-pressed ancestors would have seen only as luxuries. An even greater luxury in the eyes of our ancestors, indeed one that most generations of humanity would have found almost decadent, is the growing of trees for their decorative value. "Ornament" looks at the species that we have chosen to introduce into our parks, gardens and streets in recognition of the beauty of their flowers, foliage or shape. Given the increasingly urban future of the human race, trees as ornament will surely only grow in importance. Before commencing our journey to visit some of the world's most magnificent and interesting trees, it is worth pointing out two issues that have cropped up time and again in writing this book. One is about the destruction of trees; the other about the ability of trees to grow where they are not wanted. Both are about the conservation of our natural environment. The destruction of the world's forests is a well-understood issue, and the impacts on global climate, local weather and biodiversity can be very severe. Since the dawn of time, humanity has been careless about forests, and the chain saw has only speeded up a process that began with stone axes and fire. Many times in the book, this writer has had to record the wholesale and wanton destruction of trees. Yet as the human race has spread around the world, it has taken favored tree species with it. Often these have spread with weedlike ferocity in their new homes, displacing native species and suffocating entire ecosystems. In some places, the problem of invasive alien species is more severe than deforestation. Understanding trees is an essential part of our learning to be good stewards of the earth. It is hoped that this book may contribute a little to that learning process.

Table of Contents


    1 Antiquity
    2 Ecology
    3 Sacred
    4 Utility
    5 Food
    6 Ornament
Acknowledgments And
Further Reading

Editorial Reviews

They tower above us, they nurture us, they provide us with clean air; trees are crucial to our survival. They also bring much beauty into the world, and tranquility. Author Noel Kingsbury celebrates the tree and its importance in this coffee table book. He divides his exploration of trees into six chapters: antiquity, ecology, sacred, utility, food, and ornament. Within each of these chapters there is a detailed look at a number of trees that best illustrate the concepts presented. When we think of the oldest living trees, it is generally the redwood that comes to mind but the giant sequoia will live more than twice as long, and the bristlecone pine even longer still. In each chapter are beautiful photographs of the various species that are presented, along with a detailed description. Some of the featured trees are at risk due to habitat destruction, like the Cayman ironwood, but others have proven their value in new ways, such as the longleaf pine that is now being championed as a sustainable choice for forest management. From the towering ancient sequoias to the brilliant annual displays of the Judas tree, there is a fascinating variety of trees gathered in this gorgeous book.