“It is no surprise that trees would shape America more than other nations. After all, America has some of the most spectacular tree resources on the planet. Forests once covered almost half of the contiguous states, a staggering 950 million acres. The diverse geography across the country gives America ideal soil for almost any type of tree, from the palms of southern California to the pines of New England. The United States is home to the world’s biggest trees (the giant sequoias), the world’s tallest trees (the coastal redwoods), and the world’s oldest trees (the bristlecone pines).” — Eric Rutkow, American Canopy
America would be a very different place without its millions of acres of trees. Our forests shaped how we lived, thrived and expanded as a people, and that’s the unique focus of Eric Rutkow’s American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon, writes: “In American Canopy, Eric Rutkow works a wonderful magic. He takes the most obvious of things — trees — and weaves an astounding and complex narrative that ranges across American history, from Johnny Appleseed to Henry David Thoreau, from Franklin Roosevelt to John Muir.”
Other historians have taken on the story of particular North American trees. Taken together, these volumes constitute a forest of stories, and one of the Land Library’s most overflowing sections. One of our favorites is also pictured above: American Chestnut: the Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel.
The trees themselves, intimate to all our lives, comes alive at the end of Eric Rutkow’s American Canopy:
“As we rush headlong into the twenty-first century, the physicality of trees seems more vital than ever. The modern workplace and home are becoming increasingly antiseptic. Americans now spend their days staring into computer screens that receive information as if by magic. Daily life seems alarmingly virtual. Trees provide the antidote. The smell of pine needles, the crunch of autumn leaves, the roughness of bark are all reminders that we are a part of nature. Tree hugging, in its most literal sense, offers a reconnection with the physical world, the world of our forefathers. The forests and their trees are a sanctuary for the spirit. To enter them is to seek renewal.”
Scanning the Land Library’s shelves, here’s two wonderfully illustrated books that will reconnect you to the physical world of trees; a world full of wonder, from seed and root, to rough bark, and leaves thirsty for the sun:
Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Hugo, with photographs by Robert Llewellyn — an in-depth look at 10 common trees — their leaves, flowers, fruits, buds, leaf scars, twigs, and bark; and another image-rich collection: Trees: A Visual Guide by Tony Rodd and Jennifer Stackhouse.
And here’s two of our newest tree books at our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library!
The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups by Gina Ingoglia (another wonderful volume from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens!), and The Family Tree, a warmly illustrated picture book by David McPhail. A fun, empowering story for kids!