Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustainedthe coast redwood trees,Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored.
The canopyvoyagers are youngjust college students when they start their questand they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that theres nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.
The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called fire caves. Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to ones death.
Prestons account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Treesthe story of the fate of the worlds most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.
Preston's account of the exploration of this extraordinary world is a true-life adventure story that is at times terrifying, often moving and, occasionally, a little long winded. The reader comes away with a fierce appreciation for the trees themselves and their ecological significance, and a respect for the people who have not only devoted their lives to understanding more about these behemoths of the forest, but regularly risk their lives to climb these humbling examples of nature at its most magnificent. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
New York Times - Janet Maslin
Mr. Preston writes that “in order to see a giant tree you need a magnifying glass,” and this book is fascinating in its keen, inquisitive account of the redwoods’ biosphere.
New York Times Book Review - Kate Zernike
…however tall, dark and important the redwoods may be, a tree has only so much personality, and it takes more to sustain 300 pages. The Wild Trees is best when Preston portrays the collection of characters drawn to the canopy—the Southern California skateboarder, say, or the coupon distributor who posits that global warming may be making the redwoods taller.
Signature Review. [The botanists'] collective passion and intensity have illuminated one of the most vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems on this continent.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Preston's hands-on perspective, suspenseful chronicling of the adventures of these vividly portrayed redwood experts, and glorious descriptions of the tall trees' splendor and ecological significance make for a transfixing read.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by M. D. Vaden of Oregon Should be a classic according to M. D. Vaden Some folks have said that The Wild Trees reads a bit choppy. I felt the same at first, but have a better way to explain it. The book reads comparably to sitting around a campfire sharing a story, but in writing.
It is one of few books that I... Read More
Rated of 5
by M. D. Vaden of Oregon Very good Tree book with Wish there was a four and a half rating. I used to give this book a 5, until I found the tree Preston described and realized that he stretched the truth and wrote for shock and awe effect.
Regarding verifiable tree and forest facts, the book is... Read More
Rated of 5
by M. D. Vaden of Oregon The Wild Trees: Informative & Superlative Storytelling The Wild Trees was interesting to me because I work with trees, have been in the redwoods, and even vacationed where one of the main character's wives was born.
The best part of the book for me, was the forest information, most of which can be... Read More
Rated of 5
by M. D. Vaden of Oregon The Wild Trees, Entertaining, Informative As one who explores in forests, and works with trees, I found the book very informative.
As for being non-fiction - it's at least 99% non-fiction. Although I do challenge Preston's claim about one grove discovery on page 82 of the book, based on... Read More
Rated of 5
by Ted Readable Science An exciting read which also presents a great amount of botanical and scientific information in a very palatable manner. We read it before we went to northern California and appreciated the extra insight we had into the Redwood Forests.
The coast redwood is the largest and tallest individual living organism
on the planet. The edible fungus known as honey mushroom, or
Armillaria, is is far larger (the largest known mass occupies 300 square
miles of the Blue Mountains) but doesn't qualify as an "individual"
In most trees the branches are smaller at the top than at the bottom.
Redwoods are the opposite, becoming increasingly complex with increasingly
massive branch structures at the top.
Humans are the only primates who, as a species, don't spend time in
The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the
largest (by volume) tree in the world - that we know of.
The largest tree in
Smith state park is said to be the Stout Tree, but Michael Taylor, who has been
searching for the world's tallest trees for as long as Sillett has been
climbing them, has found at least 50 trees larger in Jedediah Smith state park...
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