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A Natural History of Conifers Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press (May 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881928690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881928693
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 7.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Not since Rachel Carson has the public been graced with a scientist that writes with the interest of a novelist. Anyone with a curiosity about the early history of plant life on our planet will relish this book.”


(John Bagnasco Garden Compass)

“The book is organized in topically centered, lively chapters that include a discussion of conifer ecology and conservation. It is well illustrated with color photographs and line drawings of the trees, their structures, and the landscapes they dominate. Not exactly an encyclopedia but rather a sourcebook, this is the place to go for information about conifers. Highly recommended.” (Choice)

“If you want to find out more about Conifers, then [this book] by the naturally acclaimed expert, Aljos Farjon, will sate your curiosity, your thirst for knowledge and your enthusiasm for those exciting plants that make up this group.”

(VMGA Report)

From the Inside Flap

Conifers are the most diverse, interesting, beautiful trees in the world, so why is it that our gardens are home to so few species? Part of the reason lies in their economic importance which, by focusing attention on relatively few species, has limited our understanding of one of the most remarkable plant groups on earth. Leading expert Aljos Farjon provides a broader perspective with this compelling narrative that observes conifers from the standpoint of the curious naturalist. It starts with the basic question of what conifers are and continues to explore their evolution, taxonomy, ecology, distribution, human uses, and issues of conservation. As the story unfolds many popular misconceptions are dispelled, such as the notion that all conifers have cones (untrue), and the extraordinary diversity of conifers begins to dawn as Farjon describes the diminutive creeping shrub Microcachrys tetragona, whose strange seed cones resemble raspberries, and the prehistoric-looking Araucaria meulleri. The taxonomic diversity of conifers is huge and Farjon goes on to relate how, over the course of three 300 million years, these trees and shrubs have adapted to survive geological upheavals, climatic extremes, and formidable competition from flowering plants. Scarcely less remarkable is his explanation of how conifers, with only 627 species, grew to occupy every continent on earth ranging from the high latitudes to the tropics. This illuminating review will fascinate plant lovers who wish to discover the extraordinary relatives of ordinary garden conifers, natural historians, who will relish seeing conifers reviewed in a broad context, and all who seek to learn more about the early history of life on our planet.


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Customer Reviews

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In conifers they just have not worked as yet!And perhaps this is a good thing.
Green Man
Timber Press did their usual bang-up job of production with gr eat binding and paper, beautiful jacket, and stunning photos.
Kirby Adams
His writing style is generally clear and engaging, and occasionally hits some very high notes.
Ronald M. Lanner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ronald M. Lanner on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book has a lot going for it. The author has been most recently head of the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and has had a front-row seat as a conifer taxonomist during the development of three key disciplines of the last few decades: molecular genetics, cladistic analysis, and earth history. Unlike many taxonomists he glories in making extensive field trips throughout the conifer world, for business and pleasure. His writing style is generally clear and engaging, and occasionally hits some very high notes. And he is a good photographer and a talented botanical artist. Thus he has created a modern treatment of the conifers that would have been impossible just a few years ago, and he has imbued it with deep concern for the biodiversity of the order Coniferales and the preservation of rare and endangered species. He interprets "natural history" broadly and is free to inquire into any aspect of conifer lore, from evolution to forest products. Surely this book will accomplish the author's goal of bringing more respect to these tribes of trees that are major parts of the silva in both hemispheres.
There is a wealth of fascinating information here, and the author is an affable guide taking us along on numerous exciting quests. The stories of discovery of new-to-science conifers like Wollemia and Xanthocyparis add spice to the overall conifer story, as do travels to New Caledonia and other venues of remarkable trees. But not everything is equally well done. Some chapters are densely academic, heavy going for amateurs lacking technical credentials. A preoccupation with numerical measures of diversity, and an emphasis on extinct groups may not appeal to many.
Mistakes or faux pas are fairly common, and range from the trivial to the profound.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James Philipp on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book fills a gap in the popular literature on conifers: there's really a strong need for a comprehensive review of the natural history of conifers. But if that's what you are looking for, you will be disappointed here. Still, this volume has some strengths.

Some of the high points of this text: (1) There a many photos of species where it is difficult to find good photographs; most notably of the Southern hemisphere species. It is almost worth keeping the book on my shelves just for the "tree porn". (2) Again, it is really the Southern species where this book really provides new details. If you are looking for a work that discusses the new finds in Indo-China or New Caledonia this is a book not to be missed.

Where I was disappointed: (1) Most notably, this book is in dire need of editorial coherence. It reads mostly like a collection of magazine articles that have been very lightly reshaped into a thematic structure. This book really would have benefited from a more disciplined analytic structure. (2) I really wanted to see more sustained discussion of the evolutionary linkages of the conifers--especially in reference to Northern hemisphere species. There's bits and pieces here (even chapters with titles that look like they will provide the sustained analysis that I'm looking for) but the discussions are just so scattered as to be frustrating.

In short, this is the type of book that you can open up at almost any point and start reading--and that's not necessarily a good thing. Again, I really wanted to like this book more than I did.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kirby Adams on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure how to review this book without resorting to tired clichés like "a masterpiece" or "the bible of conifer natural histories." This book just happens to be the prefect example of everything popular science writing should be.

Farjon doesn't dumb down the science and doesn't apologize for it (excepting a brief mea culpa in the preface, which also includes Farjon's philosophy on the craft of writing popular science, so don't skip the preface!) Any botanist will enjoy this book just as much as an amateur ecologist, weekend hiker, or little old lady in suburbia with pine trees in her yard. The scientists will find many morsels to whet the appetite for further study while the amateur will walk through a door to the wonders of conifer natural history, perhaps referring back to the book after every new hike through the woods.

There are 34 chapters - some of them as short as just a couple pages. This brevity makes the text an easy, casual read. Each chapter is headed with an anecdote from the author's life or human history. The first 20 or so chapters deal with the typical science common to any natural history - evolution, physiology, systematic, ecology. There follows a section on geography (often lacking in popular works), then several chapters about human interaction with conifers which segues nicely into the final section about conservation. A glossary and a reference section close the book. As I desperately try to find something negative to say here, I guess I wished only that the references would have been more numerous, but that is truly a nit-picky complaint.

Timber Press did their usual bang-up job of production with gr eat binding and paper, beautiful jacket, and stunning photos.
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