Monday, February 6, 2012


I'm reading a very interesting book: The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. It's about the redwood trees on the West Coast, and the folks who climb them. Those trees are said to be the oldest living things on the planet.

The folks who climb them are driven by wanting to find the tallest one (they're difficult to measure), by studying the life in the canopies in the redwood forests, and by their love for these majestic trees.

Turns out there's a lot of stuff living up there, like in the canopies of rain forests. Plants, trees, etc., growing right out of the redwood trees' branches, way up high. Bizarre. There are areas up there between trunks growing out of the trees where soil has somehow collected, and stuff grows up there. The trees growing up there in those redwoods are mostly bonzai-type trees -- stunted, but living. At the time the book was written (it was published in 2007), it was like an unexplored world. Also, there are creatures up there that spend their entire lifetimes up there.

Some parts of the book are sad, because climbing big trees is dangerous, and folks fall. Talking about a fall of over 300 feet.

There used to be redwood forests throughout of the world, but most of 'em are gone; the remnants in California and Oregon are all that's left, and even those were hit hard by the logging industry.

The oldest ones are over two thousand years old. Before the time of Jesus Christ. The oldest Sequoia Redwood tree is said to be 3500 years old. In other words, as old as recorded human history; apparently, the earliest significant writing by humans dates from around that time.

I saw something saying that the tallest tree is "Hyperion," in California, at about 379 feet. But trees, of course, grow, and I'm not sure that people know which is the tallest at any given time. And it seems that climate change may be accelerating the growth, but hopefully pollution won't kill them.

This book is an example of how much we really don't know about the natural world. It's only been a short number of years since the ecosystems in those redwood canopies were discovered, and much of them is still not understood. And even though over 90% of the redwood forest are gone, some parts of the tiny remnants left along the West Coast are so vast and hard to reach that large portions remained undiscovered and not studied as recently as the date this book was published.

Another great book found at the thrift store. :)

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