Trees, Natural History, and Narrative

By March 6, 2014Books

Book Review:
A Natural History of Trees
By Donald Peattie


Did you know that the wood of the White Pine tree was prized by the English as the best wood in North America for ship masts? Did you know that the English banned the colonists from chopping down these trees?

If you read Donald Peattie’s epic nature narrative on Trees you will not only learn about what a tree is, how it functions, but how it is tied to the history of a country; how it contributed to a particular people’s epic poetry. Oaks and Maples for Peattie are not mere species to be read about in textbooks. They are the living giants under which midnight trysts in Sherwood Forest took place. Peattie makes nature live again with his beautiful prose and narrative style. Natural History books are hard to find in the science curricula these days. Naturalists, steeped not only the dry scientific facts, but who still retain the eye of wonder for those dappled things of the earth, are few and far between. Read just a sapling of his writing..

“No child who ever played beneath a Bur Oak will forget it, and if he was brought by the right kind of parents, they showed him all its grand, elemental beauties, and perhaps found for him old portage trees of this species, bent down by the Indians a century and more ago, in their sapling stage, to mark the canoe carries from one of the slow, historic rivers or lakes to the next. For Bur Oaks live three centuries and four or more. At Sioux City, Iowa, still stands almighty specimen of this race, the Council Oak, which, it is believed, was already 150 years old when Lewis and Clark saw it on their way up the Missouri and there held council with the Indians.”

If you want your sons to read a beautifully written book about the grand giants of the earth, read “A Natural History of Trees” by Donald Peattie. It is best read while sitting under a Willow on a breezy spring day…


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