Twelve Trees: The Deep Roots of Our Future (Paperback)

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A compelling global exploration of nature and survival as seen via a dozen species of trees, offering “extensive insight into the ways in which humans and trees are interconnected” (BookPage), revealing the challenges facing our planet and how scientists are working urgently to save our forests and our future.

The world today is undergoing the most rapid environmental transformation in human history—from climate change to deforestation. Scientists, ethnobotanists, indigenous peoples, and collectives of all kinds are closely studying trees and their biology to understand how and why trees function individually and collectively in the ways they do. In Twelve Trees, Daniel Lewis, curator and historian at one of the world’s most renowned research libraries, travels the world to learn about these trees in their habitats.

Lewis takes us on a sweeping journey to plant breeding labs, botanical gardens, research facilities, deep inside museum collections, to the tops of tall trees, underwater, and around the Earth, journeying into the deserts of the American west and the deep jungles of Peru, to offer a globe-spanning perspective on the crucial impact trees have on our entire planet. When a once-common tree goes extinct in the wild but survives in a botanical garden, what happens next? How can scientists reconstruct lost genomes and habitats? How does a tree store thousands of gallons of water, or offer up perfectly preserved insects from millions of years ago, or root itself in muddy swamps and remain standing? How does a 5,000-year-old tree manage to live, and what can we learn from it? And how can science account for the survival of one species at the expense of others? Twelve Trees “brims with wonder, appreciation, and even some small hope” (Booklist) and is an awe-inspiring story of our world, its past, and its future.

Note—species include: * The Lost Tree of Easter Island (Sophora toromiro) * The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) * Hymenaea protera [a fossil tree] * The Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) * East Indian sandalwood (Santanum album) * The Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) * West African ebony (Diospyros crassiflora) * The Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) * Olive tree (Olea europaea) * Baobab (Adansonia digitata) * the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) * The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

About the Author

Daniel Lewis is the Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in Southern California, and a writer, college professor, and environmental historian. He writes about the biological sciences and their intersections with extinction, policy, culture, history, politics, law, and literature. Lewis holds the PhD in history and has held post-doctoral fellowships at Oxford, the Smithsonian, the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, and elsewhere. Lewis also serves on the faculty at Caltech, where he teaches environmental humanities courses, as well as at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He is also currently serving a five-year term on the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, as a Bird Red List Authority member. His previous books include Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai’i and The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds.

Praise For…

“Daniel Lewis blends a profound sense of wonder with hard science and a global perspective in offering the histories of a dozen extraordinary species. . . . Lewis is a skilled writer, and it would be hard to overestimate his bonafides in the biological sciences. He locates their intersections with extinction, policy, politics, law, culture, history and literature in lively, often eye-opening prose.” The Post & Courier

“A book that brims with wonder, appreciation, and even some small hope.”—Booklist

“Daniel Lewis’s informative, engrossing, often poetic Twelve Trees is a wonderland of fascinating facts. . . . Twelve Trees is also an engagingly written experiential memoir of the author’s quest to learn more about the trees he views as crucial to human life. . . . Lewis leads readers on an awe-inspiring tour of a dozen trees. . . . Twelve Trees offers exten­sive insight into the ways in which humans and trees are interconnected.” BookPage

“In Twelve Trees, Daniel Lewis travels the world to meet a dozen unique specimens with the aim to learn more about how trees live and communicate—and what their connected lives might tell us about how we live ours. Brimming with awe for the overstory, the book is also a reminder that life unlike our own is not only mysterious—it’s precious.” LitHub

“Enchanting . . . The plentiful trivia fascinates, and Lewis has a talent for complicating conventional wisdom. . . . The result is a loving paean to all things arboreal.” Publishers Weekly

“The environmental historian offers vivid portraits of 12 trees from around the world—including ebony, olive and sandalwood—scoping out the threats they face and the extraordinary ways they are able to adapt.” —The Guardian, “2024 Books to Look Out For”

“This engaging heart-and-mind approach to educating readers about trees reveals that they too have lessons to offer to the world. . . . Lewis exhorts readers to try to see the world from a tree’s perspective and to practice empathy. Nyquist’s exquisite illustrations complement and enhance the book’s gorgeous world.” Library Journal (starred review)

“Daniel Lewis, author of The Feathery Tribe, could not have chosen a group of trees more biologically and culturally fascinating than this variously endangered dozen. . . . He offers a meticulous survey of these species, as well as their personal histories and importance. . . . He deals with the complexities of conservation efforts (and resistance to them) with an even hand, and the book is as rigorous as it is readable. . . . A well-informed, staunch defense of trees’ capacity to multiply biodiversity and support life on Earth.” Kirkus Reviews

“This captivating exploration of nature and survival through the lens of twelve remarkable tree species takes readers on a global journey, delving into the science, history, and cultural significance of each tree. From the majestic redwoods of California to the ancient bristlecone pines of the Great Basin, engaging prose and thorough research show the vital role trees play in our world and the urgent need to protect them. A compelling and enlightening read for anyone passionate about nature and conservation.” Arlington Magazine

Twelve Trees is a remarkable adventure that takes us from the heights of the redwood canopy to the craters of Easter Island and the depths of the Congo Basin, using cutting-edge science and personal stories to explain the ways these incredible trees shape our world.” Eric Rutkow, author of American Canopy

Product Details
ISBN: 9781982164065
ISBN-10: 1982164069
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 11th, 2025
Pages: 304
Language: English