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How Trees Die: The Past, Present, and Future of our Forests [Hardcover]

by Jeff Gillman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 15, 2009 1594160813 978-1594160813 1st Edition
Trees have been essential to the success of human beings, providing food, shelter, warmth, transportation, and products (consider the paper you are holding). Trees are also necessary for a healthy atmosphere, literally connecting the earth with the sky. Once in wild abundance--the entire eastern North America was a gigantic forest--they have receded as we have clearcut the landscape in favor of building cities and farms, using up and abusing our forests in the process. Over the centuries, we have trained food trees, such as peach and apple trees,to produce more and better fruit at the expense of their lives. As Jeff Gillman, a specialist in the production and care of trees, explains in his major new work, How Trees Die: The Past, Present, and Future of Our Forests, the death of a tree is as important to understanding our environment as how it lives. While not as readily apparent as other formsof domestication, our ancient and intimate relationship with trees has caused their lives to be inseparably entwined with ours. The environment we have created--what we put into the air and into the water, and how we change the land through farming, construction, irrigation, and highways--affects the world's entire population of trees, while thelives of the trees under our direct care in farms, orchards, or along a city boulevard depend almost entirely on our actions. Taking the reader on a fascinating journey through time and place, the author explains how we kill trees, often for profit, but also unintentionally with kindness through overwatering or overmulching, and sometimes simply by our movements around the globe, carrying foreign insects or disease. No matter how a tree's life ends, though,understanding the reason is essential to understanding the future of our environment.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Horticultural scientist Gillman (The Truth About Organic Gardening) examines the astounding longevity of trees. Beginning with a provocative opener comparing the fate of cows raised for meat to the life-span of trees cut down to make paper for books, Gillman delineates the incursions made by expanding development, commercial tree farms, air pollution and pests (encouraging sophisticated methods for controlling pests, like "a careful analysis of their sex life," to impede reproduction). Analyzing the life cycle of trees-their greatest vulnerability as juveniles, their hardy reproductive phase, the deceleration of growth as the distance from root to treetop increases-Gillman also highlights some amazing specimens, including the oldest tree alive today, a 9,500 year-old Norwegian oak. Gillman takes an interesting survey of trees grown from seeds and those grown commercially from shoots, grafts, cuttings, etc.; he also looks at "meristems," which play the same role in plants as stem cells do in animals (plants that are cloned, like the sheep Dolly, appear to die from premature aging). Written for the lay reader, this interesting scientific tour should capture the imagination of casual naturalists.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jeff Gillman is associate professor of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing; 1st Edition edition (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594160813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594160813
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Jeff was raised in South Eastern Pennsylvania, and went to Franklin and Marshall College. He then moved South to Georgia where he received a masters degree in Entomology and a Ph.D. in Horticulture. He currently resides in St. Paul Minnesota. Besides teaching and research activities, Jeff runs a nine acre nursery at UMN.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read February 3, 2010
It kind of bugs Jeff Gillman when people tell him that his book How Trees Die: The Past, Present, and Future of our Forests is sad. As a horticultural scientist at the University of Minnesota, he has researched trees extensively, so observing their suffering and death is part of his job, something to be studied and understood. For the rest of us, though, trees seem venerable, almost magical, and no matter how scraggly and half-dead they get, it still pains us to watch them die or have to cut them down.

So it did make me sad to read his account of all the ways in which humans intentionally (through clearcutting, for example) and unwittingly (by over watering or planting too deeply, for instance) kill trees. But that didn't stop me from reading the entire book on the flight to and from my mom's house in Phoenix a couple of months back. What captivated me was Gillman's storytelling.

While his previous books, including The Truth About Organic Gardening, have offered up well-researched information in a humorous and completely accessible way, this one reads at times like a short story only the characters we come to care about so deeply are trees. Add to this the fact that the book is filled with fascinating facts like plants that are cloned seem to age prematurely and die (like Dolly the sheep) and that there weren't any earthworms in the Northeastern United States until the 1800s when they hitched a ride here in the ballasts of European ships, and you've got a genuine must-read with this one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Hit From Jeff Gillman March 7, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An easy and interesting read. He has the ability to make you see each tree as an individual while subtly teaching you how to give your trees proper care, all without preaching.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph of Tree Knowledge! September 30, 2013
S ometimes it can be hard to imagine the things you don't know, or things you may find in a book a little outside your area of expertise. Take for instance the small fact the world didn't have a summer in 1816?! Or how about if someone asked you who the Einstein of Horticulture was, would you have any idea or would you think they were only kidding? His name is Thomas Knight and he proved that trees have a bit of a sixth sense, because even if you turn a tree upside down it will still grow up to the sky. So while the title of this book is How Trees Die, I wouldn't want that to deter the reader into thinking this is a gloomy book with midnight militia. Quite the contrary, there is an orchestrated score of history, science and biology in here, more than enough for you to be well on your way smiling and enlightened and ready to wow your friends with some beautiful facts that unearth many hidden dendrological secrets. After I finished reading this book I was in such a mysterious awed tree rapture, I walked around the city for blocks and blocks, looking at trees, noting the branches, noting which way the trunks were growing, how healthy the leaves looked. I am thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to read and ponder such a book on trees!

Ancient forest trees,
the saw is loud to your bark,
so birds sing your cry.
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