Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

I just finished reading The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. Preston is an excellent author of non-fiction books (The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer). He is able to write about history and science in a way that is entertaining and makes you want to keep reading.

The Wild Trees is about a group of "botanists and naturalists that found a lost world above California" in the canopy of the redwoods. Preston writes about how and why these individuals started climbing the redwoods and what they found in the canopy. We often hear about the abundance of life in the oceans and how our activities effect that life. What was not known until recently was how abundant life is in the canopy of an ancient forest. Researchers are consistently documenting new species or finding lifeforms 300 feet above ground that they didn't know could survive that high in a tree. The trees are so large that in areas where the trunk has split to form two or more trunks, there is enough space for fern gardens and huckleberry bushes to grow.

Through interviews and time spent climbing with the subjects of his book, Preston is able to tell the story of their individual lives and relationships, their search for the tallest tree on Earth, and their research documenting a newly discovered part of our ecosystem. These researchers literally risk life and limb in an effort to document and help save this environment. I recently compared this to storm research and tornado chasing only with trees and climbing instead.

As exciting as many of the accounts in his book are, I have to say that one of my favorite chapters is about how his personal climbing and research for this book inspired his children to climb with him. He tells about camping in the trees with his son and how his son was visited by flying tree squirrels. Also, one of his daughters became the youngest certified tree climber in the sport. He also involved his wife, parents, brothers, and their families.

For more information about The Wild Trees, visit

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