Notes on Colin Tudge's The Tree
Notes on Colin Tudge's The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter
By J. Zimmerman
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From the Preface:
"In short, without trees our species would not have come into being at all.
And if trees had disappeared after we hit the ground,
we would still be scrabbling like baboons
(assuming the baboons had even allowed us to live)."
I WHAT IS A TREE?
- Trees in mind: Simple questions with complicated answers
- Keeping track
- How trees became
II ALL THE TREES IN THE WORLD.
- Trees without flowers: the conifers
- Trees with flowers: Magnolias and other primitives
- From palms and screw pines to yuccas and bamboos: the monocot trees
- Thoroughly modern broadleaves
- From oaks to mangoes: the glorious inventory of rose-like eudicots
- From handkerchief trees to teak: the daisy-like eudicots
III THE LIFE OF TREES.
- How trees live
- Which trees live where, and why
- The social life of trees: war or peace?
IV TREES AND US.
- The future with trees
Delightful line drawings (by Dawn Burford) include:
"Big, hallow ... may double up as funeral parlors and cafes".
- Banyan: forms "new trunks by sending down roots from above".
- Beech: "One of the temperate world's most valued hardwoods".
- Birch: "Fey, melancholic, and wonderfully hardy".
- Bristlecone pine: "Some ... are as old as all written history".
- Cacti: "Big cacti form veritable desert forests".
- Cannonball tree: 20-centimeter (8-inch) diameter "fruits grow straight from the trunk".
"The fruits break when they hit the ground to expose a bluish-green pulp, packed with seeds.
To people the pulp smells foul, but peccaries ... love it."
- Coastal redwood: "the height of a cathedral spire, 60 to 70 meters. The tallest ... 111 meters".
- Cycads: "look like palms but are quite different".
- Davidia, the lovely handkerchief tree: "each flower is flanked by two petals as big
as your hand that look ... like rich, creamy-white leaves".
A related family is Cornus which "includes the 45 species of dogwood".
- Dicksonia: "Tree ferns
once abounded. Some, like Dicksonia, as still with us."
- Dragon tree: "An arborescent relative of asparagus".
- Fig: "750 species .... need their own wasps to pollinate them".
- Ginkgo: "Now only one species remains".
- Holly: "Handsome in winter and with fine white timber".
- Judas tree: "Rounded-leaved and altogether beautiful".
- Juniper: "The most widespread of all conifers".
- Lodoicea, a palm of the Seychelles:
produces "coco de mer ... the world's largest seed and a prodigious mariner", its seeds (like those of the coconut palm
and the nipa palm) being dispersed by water.
- Magnolia: "Beautiful but simple ... [may be] the most ancient flowering tree" with large but basic flowers.
- Mangroves: can "grow with their feet in the sea"; thereby they "link the food webs of land and sea".
- Ravenala: the "traveler's palm" "is related to ginger".
- Royal palm: "may grow to 30 meters [90 feet]".
- Teak: "grows slowly; it is traditionally harvested in India at eighty-year intervals".
- Yew: "two thousand years to live".
1. Trees in mind: Simple questions with complicated answers
- What is a tree? It's "a big plant with a stick up the middle -- or could be, if it
grew in the right circumstances; or ..."
- Why be a tree?
Advantages include efficient metabolism and the production of vast quantities of seeds.
"Trees are classic keystone species: simply by existing ..., they create niches where other creatures can live."
- How many kinds of trees are there?
Fascinating discussion of why this is complicated to answer and why nobody knows.
- Still counting.
"biologists ... estimate that there are around 350,000 species of land plants in general.
At least 300,000 of them are flowering plants.
Around one-fifth of these are trees ... probably around 60,000 species of trees in the world ...
Most of these species are in the tropics.
The vast boreal forests of northern Canada are dominated by only nine species."
- Who's who?
- What's in a name?
- The pros and cons of Latin and Greek.
- Getting sorted.
- The final road to modernity.
- Transformation 1: Life.
- Transformation 2: Organisms.
- Transformation 3: Modern-style cells.
- Transformation 4: Organisms with many cells.
- Transformation 5: Plants come on to land.
- Transformation 6: Plants with 'vessels' -- and the first stirrings of wood.
- Transformation 7: Plants with seeds.
- Cycads, the ginkos, and the musterious gnetales: three noble also-rans.
5: Trees without flowers: the conifers
- Who's who among the conifers.
6: Trees with flowers: Magnolias and other primitives
7: From palms and screw pines to yuccas and bamboos: the monocot trees
8: Thoroughly modern broadleaves
9: From oaks to mangoes: the glorious inventory of rose-like eudicots
10: From handkerchief trees to teak: the daisy-like eudicots
- Earth, water, air, and fire.
- The problems of water.
- The soil.
- Strange soils: mangroves and outright toxicity.
- How trees know what to do (and what to do next).
- How trees shape themselves.
- The past and the future: memory and anticipation.
12: Which trees live where, and why
- Why trees live where they do.
- And yet they moved.
- Reality: A few case histories.
- Why so many trees in the tropics.
- A tale of three northerners.
13: The social life of trees: war or peace?
- Animals as go-betweens.
- Of figs and wasps.
- Enter the nematodes.
- Cool figs and hot figs.
- Scattering of seed.
- Why some figs have big fruits despite everything: the mystery solved.
- The dodo and the tambalacoque:
A sad tale with a fairly happy ending.
- Life's torments -- and autumn colors.
14: The future with trees
- The biggest challenge of all: Climate.
- Water and soil: the particularities of rain and flood.
- A world built on trees.
- Forests and farming in tandem: the promise of agroforestry.
- How to grow trees.
- The right kind of science.
- Wangari Maathai and the green belt movement.
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