Book Review: ‘The Journeys of Trees’ Shows Giants in Transit

October 13, 2020 · 1 minute read
Book Review: ‘The Journeys of Trees’ Shows Giants in Transit

I stumbled across a book review in the Wall Street Journal for a title every tree lover should consider putting on their shelf. The book, “The Journeys of Trees,” is by Zach St. George and the review is by Heller McAlpin.

Writes McAlpin: Trees, although they seem immutably rooted, are resourcefully shifty. Like all other living things, they are capable of movement from one place to another in search of better nourishment or safety. That’s the salient and perhaps surprising takeaway from science reporter Zach St. George’s “The Journeys of Trees,” a deeply researched book that is liable to change your perspective on the magnificent, tall, woody creatures that cover one-third of the Earth’s land.

Of course, trees are not exactly light on their feet. They move at an infinitesimal, glacial pace. “The migration of a forest is just many trees sprouting in the same direction,” Mr. St. George writes. Scientists call this sort of movement dispersal, and track the progress of trees over eons through the study of fossils that ancient forests have left behind. They have learned, for example, that fast-growing metasequoias lived in the Arctic during the temperate mid-Miocene era about 10 million years ago, when Alaska was as warm as New Jersey. That changed in the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras, as vast sheets of ice covered large parts of the world. Asa Gray, a prominent 19th-century American botanist, conjectured that plants were pushed to lower latitudes as the cold advanced, and later pushed northward again as the ice retreated. Among the species that moved south were the sequoias, which put down roots in the Sierra Nevada range.

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In Taipei, Families Bury Their Loved Ones Next to Trees

February 12, 2020 · 0 minute read

Welcome to Yong’ai Garden, an area of land stretching across 1.2 hectares and one of two public parks in Taipei where tree burials have been taking place since 2007. The concept of a tree burial is simple: family members place the ashes of the deceased into a biodegradable container, and take it to the garden. They then choose from 13 clusters of almost 8,000 trees: cherry blossoms, osmanthus, magnolia, and camphor are some of the more popular options. The caretakers of Yong’ai Garden provide the family with shovels and direct them to the burial area they have chosen. They are careful not to disturb specific sites, marked by small iron rods, where another tree burial has taken place recently. The family digs a hole in the ground that is approximately half a meter deep (1’8”), places the ashes into the hole and covers it with soil and stones. The entire process is completely free of charge. In an innovative turn on traditional Chinese funerary beliefs, the bereaved are also encouraged to set up online memorial tablets for their loved ones, in place of physical gravestones.

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Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Grove Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines

January 22, 2020 · 0 minute read

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

That’s the year David Noble, an officer with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, rappelled into a narrow canyon and came across a grove of large trees he didn’t recognize.

Noble brought back a few twigs and showed them to biologists and botanists who were similarly stumped.

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