Botanical Books: ‘A Tree A Day’

Our thanks to Craig Swick for another great botanical book review to kick off 2022.

Amy-Jane Beer, A Tree A Day (B T Batsford 2021)

This is a book I have strongly mixed feelings about.  Initially I did not like it because there were so many punctuation errors, indexing errors, sentence fragments, and other problems that a good editor or publisher would have caught.  I also had issues with the organization of the book.  The title led me to believe it would be something like a “Thought of the Day” calendar with a description of a different tree and some interesting facts about it for each day. Actually, the book is more wide-reaching than that and presents trees, their histories, and their biology and ecosystems in an enjoyable manner.

For the most part the book describes a different tree on each page.  Half of the page is a photograph or drawing and the other half is one or two paragraphs of interesting information.  Sometimes the description is of a historic tree such as the Royal Oak in which Charles II hid from the Roundheads or the Emancipation Oak where the people of Virginia heard the first reading of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  Other pages describe the role a tree plays in a whole ecosystem such as the Red Mangrove.  There are also descriptions of particular trees with an unusual history such as the Hungry Tree which “swallowed” a bicycle.  And still other descriptions show how trees have changed in a location as when the author uses a Constable painting that shows elms as the major tree and discusses how Dutch Elm Disease has changed that landscape.

The book can be read with a one day at a time approach but I found it much more satisfying to read several in one sitting.  The book made me aware of several types of trees I had never heard of and of trees with a special historical significance.  It approaches trees in much the way a coffee table book approaches a topic with good photographs and short passages of information.  This book is interesting and enjoyable but it is neither a reference book nor a book you can read straight through.

Craig Swick, January 2022

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