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Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest [Hardcover]

Lawrence S. Earley
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 27, 2004 0807828866 978-0807828861 1
Covering 92 million acres from Virginia to Texas, the longleaf pine ecosystem was, in its prime, one of the most extensive and biologically diverse ecosystems in North America. Today these magnificent forests have declined to a fraction of their original extent, threatening such species as the gopher tortoise, the red-cockaded woodpecker, and the Venus fly-trap. Conservationists have proclaimed longleaf restoration a major goal, but has it come too late?

In Looking for Longleaf, Lawrence S. Earley explores the history of these forests and the astonishing biodiversity of the longleaf ecosystem, drawing on extensive research and telling the story through first-person travel accounts and interviews with foresters, ecologists, biologists, botanists, and landowners. For centuries, these vast grass-covered forests provided pasture for large cattle herds, in addition to serving as the world's greatest source of naval stores. They sustained the exploitative turpentine and lumber industries until nearly all of the virgin longleaf had vanished.

Looking for Longleaf demonstrates how, in the twentieth century, forest managers and ecologists struggled to understand the special demands of longleaf and to halt its overall decline. The compelling story Earley tells here offers hope that with continued human commitment, the longleaf pine might not just survive, but once again thrive.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The longleaf pine once comprised the largest ecosystem in North America, extending from Texas to Virginia and south to Florida. The forest was so vast that one early traveler, finding the landscape monotonous, summarized the woodlands as "entirely too immense." Part of the geographic success of the pine resided in its flammable resins; seasonal fires triggered seed production of the longleaf and its plant associates, enabling them to propagate over wide areas. These same resins, however, led to the forest's downfall, because they were sought-after ingredients in the manufacture of tar and turpentine. Out of the original 92 million acres of longleaf, fewer than 3 million remain. Recently, however, collaborations between ecologists and foresters have brought new hope to the beleaguered ecosystem, and painstaking effort may bring back not only the longleaf but also the forest-dwelling gopher tortoise and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Earley's enthusiasm for the forest's restoration doesn't quite make up for his uninspired prose, but green-minded readers will be drawn to this ode to the piney woods. Rebecca Maksel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"Richly detailed, impeccably researched . . . at times controversial: this merits a place alongside Bartram in the library devoted to the South." -- Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004, starred review

The decline of the longleaf pine is a complex story, well and thoroughly told by . . . Earley. -- Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2004

This is the definitive book on longleaf pine. . . . For people curious about biology and history, it is fascinating. -- WoodenBoat Review, January-February, 2005

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (September 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807828866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828861
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on longleaf yet. September 7, 2005
This book is as accurate and detailed as any scholarly paper but is written so well that it is certain to be a classic of literature like Archie Carr's "The Windward Road."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America's Rain Forest November 22, 2004
For years I have been concerned about the disappearance of the South American Rain Forest. What was shocking from Earley's book is how we had our own expansive Forest with it's own ecosystem and let it disappear before our very eyes without anyone noticing.

It is not only a wonderfully told story of the Longleaf pine but it is a genuine history of how the South's economic development between the time of the settlers and up until today nearly destroyed it's most valuable resource and the ecology that was a part of it.

The only problem with this book was not being able to put it down after I started reading it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book on several fronts... October 16, 2007
Earley was trying to write a history of turpentining. What he ended up with was a spectacular essay on the natural history of longleaf pine forests, the human history of the forested south, an essay on conflicting views in forestry, and....oh yes...turpentine!

Reading this as an ecologist, I found everything I wanted with just enough of the human element to flesh it out without boring me. Oddly enough, I suspect those reading this from an anthropological view have the same opinion about the natural history aspect of the book. Earley is that good in weaving his tale.

It flows well, is well organized, and the research and references are stunning. Twenty-three pages of references make me wonder how he ever finished the book. (In his acknowledgements he seems to wonder the same thing himself!)

This book belongs on the shelf of every forester, ecologist, and southern historian. I'm just thankful I stumbled across it on a rainy day in Congaree National Park.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've given copies of "Looking for Longleaf" to many friends since it was published, particularly those interested in southen history, natural history, conservation and forestry. Just found out I neeed two more copies for Christmas presents. Hope the author writes Looking for Longleaf II soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm in graduate school working a county flora in Mississippi that includes a lot of longleaf pine dominated areas. This book is a wonderful read and, I think, vital for understanding the history of the coastal plain.
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