“The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jim Robbins

Science journalist Jim Robbins does a couple remarkable things in his book, “The Man Who Planted Trees.”

First, he makes science accessible to the reader, regardless of their level of education in the field of tree biology.

Second, he makes you remember how awesome trees are.

Who doesn’t like trees?  They’re pretty spectacular. Wouldn’t it suck if they all went away?  Yet, they’re vanishing pretty fast – thanks to human interference and climate change and other factors.

Fortunately, there are people like David Milarch in the world.  Milarch is a former addict who died, went into the light, and came back with a mission to save the trees.  Seriously. Based out of a nursery in Michigan, Milarch is leading a charge to take samples from the best of the best trees – for example, the Redwoods of California – and clone them to be planted in other areas.  By choosing the genetic champion trees, Milarch is helping pass on the best traits of the trees that won the survival of the fittest game.   Scientists are now joining in and saying he’s really on to something, and he might even be saving the world.  (Not bad for a pretty regular dude, huh?)

Robbins cuts Milarch’s remarkable story with chapters that are mini-case files on a few examples of specific trees that require rescue, and fast.  Beside the amazing Redwoods, there are Willow trees, there are Ulmo trees, and the wonderfully named Stinking Cedar, among others.

There are moments of elation and heartbreak in this book, which is not what I was expecting.  When Robbins recalls the story of Prometheus, a bristlecone tree cut down by a grad student for research that may have actually been the oldest tree on earth, you feel like yelling “No!”  Your heart hurts a little.  It’s thrilling when an elm tree is discovered after nearly all elms have died off.  You find yourself getting emotional about trees – which is probably the point.

Care about the earth?  Read this book.  Then plant a tree. (Inspired, I’m already planning to plant a couple when I head to Northern Michigan this summer.)

Thanks for what you do, Mr. Milarch.  Thanks for documenting it so well, Mr. Robbins.  Keep it up, guys.


About JamieP

Books. Adventures. Chicago. Married. Mommy. Cat.

Posted on February 6, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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