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The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter
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The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,622 ratings  ·  158 reviews
There are redwoods in California that were ancient by the time Columbus first landed, and pines still alive that germinated around the time humans invented writing. There are Douglas firs as tall as skyscrapers, and a banyan tree in Calcutta as big as a football field.

From the tallest to the smallest, trees inspire wonder in all of us, and in The Tree, Colin Tudge travels
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Crown (first published January 1st 2005)
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Kirk "Hidden" Life of Trees actually refers to what's happening out of sight under ground — i.e., at the roots! "Secret" just means what most people are un…more"Hidden" Life of Trees actually refers to what's happening out of sight under ground — i.e., at the roots! "Secret" just means what most people are unlikely to know, and that title doesn't help much to explain what the book is about. The previous title of the same book, "The Tree," actually does tell you that the book intends to be (and it is) a thorough survey of the natural history of trees.

The two books are very different in their content and tone.(less)

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Michal Wigal
The first 100 pages contain everything you've ever wanted to know about trees. The next 200 pages contain everything you've never wanted to know about trees. The final 100 pages are a pretty informative look at how humans use trees and the role they can play in climate change. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mixing history, biology, botany, natural history, philosophy and politics, this is quite some read! It is intensely written, laden with facts and ideas, and is best consumed slowly as there's a great deal to get to grips with. It rewards patience however, and is one of the best things I've read in a while. Thoroughly recomended, if you like books you can really get your teeth into. ...more
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you know that trees communicate with one another using electric pulses? Did you know that when animals nibble on trees they chemically warn neighbor trees? Or that trees will help feed nearby sickly trees? No, I did not either. If you find these facts interesting you will like this book. Reading this revealing account of the inner life of trees makes me realize the movie Avatar is less fiction than I thought.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book does not quite live up to the title, being largely a survey of the classification system with some occasional pieces of interesting information thrown in. I was expecting to have some more in detail explanation of how trees work from the inside. But perhaps that would not be popular science. It did not help that I read the book on the Kindle which is not very good for illustrations and tables.
My original The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge doesn’t list that it is an ordered history of trees. But, the lack of order makes this book less a factual text than winding inquiry. If you’ve ever walked into a forest and started asking the big questions, and started answering them, you’ll g
Hákon Gunnarsson
This book is called The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter, and that pretty much sums up the contents, except that maybe "how humans have used them" should be somewhere in the title as well. That is a lot of information to get through in one book.

The author Colin Tudge does get through it all, and the good thing about this book is that Tudge has a real knowledge of trees. There are so many things that I know now about trees that I didn't before. So many fa
Paula Koneazny
My current writing obsession is trees, which, of course, requires that I read about trees. I found Colin Tudge's compendium to be comprehensive & utterly fascinating (I admit to nodding off a bit while reading the more technical chapters in which he surveys trees as botanically classified into order, family, & genus--at the same time I was intrigued by many unexpected relationships among both herbaceous & woody species). Although Tudge doesn't mention Canadian tree ecologist Diana Beresford-Krue ...more
Jul 01, 2007 rated it liked it
It's not as good as the cover made it out to be, and it's certainly not a natural history classic, but it's a fun, well-written overview. Part of the problem, I think, is that the task that Tudge set out for himself in surveying all the world's trees is so vast that either the book needed to be much longer, or the project needed to be toned down considerably. There's just not enough detail for this to be really excellent. ...more
Lindsey Preston
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly beautiful book. Both writing and content is stunning.. a book to take your time with, dip into and consider. Definitely going to be a reread for me, there’s so much information I want to absorb
and remember so I can recount to fellow tree lovers.
This is an amazing book ruined by its goofball author.

Tudge clearly knows a lot about trees. I very much appreciate his writing this book, because I feel like I understand trees a lot better having read it. I learned that many species of plant have independently evolved to be a "tall plant with a stick up the middle" (his definition of a "tree") in convergent evolution. I learned about the practical uses of the fruit, wood, and chemistry of many trees. I got a basic big-picture view of the many
Colin Tudge attracted my attention for having written several books about diverse subjects I am fascinated by, not the least of which is trees. In 'The Tree,' Tudge lives up to that promise, proving himself a very likable man who thinks about the world in many ways similarly to the way I do. This is in general a boon, but can be a downfall.

The book has no real goal, no thesis, no object. It is a well-organized series of writings about the trees of the world, including explanations of many facet
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, sylva
Who doesn't like trees? Despite that popularity, it is easy to have a rather lopsided understanding of why they matter. Global warming is constantly in the news, so it is commonly known that trees sequester carbon, and so have a beneficial cooling effect on the earth. We know that the roots of trees hold soil in place, and that trees can absorb an enormous quantity of water. So they have a moderating effect on variations of weather. But how many people can identify all the trees found in a local ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmmmmm..... I have mixed feelings about this book. There is a lot of information about Trees and the writing style isn't bad, but the middle section is rather tedious. The book has a few black and white sketches/illustrations of trees. My edition of the book [ISBN 9780307395399] also has very thin pages (maybe recycled) and a flimsy cover. If you are buying this you may want to get a different edition or the hardcover version.

The book is divided into parts:

Part 1: What is a Tree? Explains what
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tassos by: Jimmy Richter
Shelves: science
Another recommendation from a friend from far far away. A true tree lover. And it seems that I receive very good recommendations lately.

The book starts by explaining some basic things about what trees are, how they evolved to be what they are and how they are categorised into species, families and so on. Then there is an extensive part of the book talking about all the different categories of trees (that I more or less skipped) in order to go to the most interesting part of the book: Trees' rela
An interesting treatise on trees around the world. Roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with definitions, naming, evolution and what really defines trees from other plants (wood) with lots of little trivia thrown in. The middle section is a broad survey of the world's tree diversity following the taxonomic tree. This part is fairly dry with LOTS of latin names as it's primarily dealing with trees at the order, family, and genus level. Relevant common names and references are thro ...more
J.V. Connors
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-read-again
If you love trees, this book is a must-read, for it will astound you! This fascinating book uses trees to illuminate evolution and the ways the life works in the world, so in the end, you learn a lot more than just about trees.
Colin Tudge also teaches us about the incredible strength and complexity of trees. We learn about how trees communicate with each other and interact with other plants and animals in their environment. He tells how they cope with adversity, cooperate and even help each othe
Sarah Ensor
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is for anyone who wants to think about what trees are and how they fit into each ecosystem they inhabit in a fairly accessible way. It begins by investigating what a tree is, which isn’t a straightforward question and goes on to describe many of them. The benefit of trekking through it, is to get a sense of the entire world of trees and what they mean to other life-forms. So the hefty middle section is not just a catalogue of every tree Tudge has ever visited, studied or heard of. It shows ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: natural-history
Most of this book was a stamp collector's approach to natural history - the book equivalent of a tiny old museum whose glass-cased curios are carefully labeled with their Latin binomials but otherwise provided with little context (and even less narrative). Except instead of actually seeing the interesting wood or majestic growth form or whatever of the trees, you get the author's tell-don't-show assurances that he personally saw this or that tree once and enjoyed the experience.

If you slog thro
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For those looking for a comprehensive book on literally anything to do with trees — this is it!

I love trees beyond easy comprehension and it was glorious to read a book that reveled in that love too. I could easily tell the author and I would get along like a house on fire.

The audiobook narrator made this particularly enjoyable — he reminded me of the guy who narrates the Kurzgesagt videos on YouTube. (Not the same person though; I checked.)
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me way too long to finish: a fascinating book, but in part II the author covers all the trees in the world in a mere 150 pages, and it’s a bit exhausting. The other three parts are interesting, informative, well written, whimsical at times, and clearly the work of a man who loves trees deeply. A real tree geek. The book is from 2005 or so, so some datedness, especially around climate change.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
I’m more than halfway through this via both audio and e-book. If you’re a fan of plants, this is a great, sweeping overview of trees. It has a lot of content and does a decent job of conveying the wonderfully bizarre variations of woody plants. It is a bit dry though. I will finish it when I’m in the mood.
Augusto Bernardi
The book starts with an impressive and awe inspiring introduction of the magnitude of trees and their necessity. This is exactly what is needed for a book that is about something seemingly mundane like a tree. Tudge structures the first part of the book with childish questions that are simple enough and thereby help us to structure our understanding of this broad and intricate subject of trees. The first question is what is a tree. Essentially all trees are plants but a tree is a very loose and ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sondra
Shelves: favorites
The Tree starts out with a simple question: what is trees, which like many simple questions, is very difficult to answer. I would have a hard time coming up with a definition. Colin Tudge explains why it is difficult and comes up with a practical working definition of a tree. Then he goes into why tree forms work and how trees interact with the environment. Next he gives an overview of the state of the art in estimating the number of species of trees and their classification and then a history o ...more
Leah Rachel von Essen
I have always had a sincere respect and admiration for beautiful, old trees. The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge (which, by the way, I picked up in London in 2017), has made me see them in an even brighter light. After a review of plant biology that dives into how trees were able to evolve into what they are today, why they would, and how scientists track them; then he walks us through all of the categories and species of trees, touching on a ton of cool fa ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Oct 21, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was frankly disappointed. The biggest section of the book, 150 pages of the 400, is a gazetteer of tree genera and families; it would actually have been better presented as an alphabetical encyclopedia - the narrative style doesn't really suit this sort of information (at least, not the way Tudge writes). The final section starts by insisting that humanity must return to an agrarian existence, though without any realistic agenda as to how this might happen (or even convincing reasoning as to w ...more
Pollyanna Darling
Only truly passionate botanists and foresters will love the majority of this book, which is an in depth discussion of the characteristics of the many species of trees that bless our planet. HOWEVER, the last two sections of the book: The Life of Trees and Trees and Us, should be compulsory reading for all humans. Colin weaves a beautiful and disturbing picture of the future of the planet, should we allow our forests and wild trees to be destroyed. He also presents a clear vision of the world we ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a book that you pick up and read in one sitting. There is a lot of information, and it is worth savouring. You might think that a book all about trees would be boring, but this book is far from it. It written not only very accessibly, but also beautifully. I thought the beginning and the end of the book were the best parts, with more general information about trees. The lengthy middle section contains a description of nearly all the types of trees that exist, and while its impossible ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned so much fascinating shit from this book. Wasps and figs, why deciduous leaves turn brown in autumn, why so many plants in the rainforests colour their new growth red, natural history, how awesome conifers are, the crazy ingenous root system of redwoods. I even learned more about eucalypts, which I knew pretty damn well already (on account of having several hundred in the few acres around me). The prose is often clunky (e.g. 'Still, though, it is not true, as has often been argued of la ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environmentalism
A lot of this was pretty academic and over my head, but what was accessible was beautiful and kind of mine blowing. When he writes accessibly, he writes exceptionally well.

He is clearly a very likeable person with a gently wry sense of humour. When he allows his personality to come through in what he's writing, that really comes across strongly and is very attractive.

But the more science--y bits were quite highbrow and a lot for my little brain. I didn't retain much information, although I lov
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved this book but it is so detailed that I had to skip over several sections; there was no way I'd remember all of the details. On the other hand, I'll treasure this book as a reference for later. If I want to know more about the rose family, I know exactly where I'll go first. Tudge offers wonderful descriptions of what I assume are all the families of trees. It makes for much less dry reading than an encyclopedia would.

Regarding the final chapter: I can't stop thinking about how Tudge det
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Colin Tudge was educated at Dulwich College, 1954-61; and read zoology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1962-65.

Since 1965 he has worked on journals such as World Medicine, New Scientist and Pan, the newspaper of the World Food Conference held in Rome, 1974.

Ever since then he has earned a living by spasmodic broadcasting and a lot of writing—mainly books these days, but with occasional articles. He has

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