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The Coast Redwood

a natural and cultural history

Michael Barbour, Sandy Lydon, Mark Borchert, Marjorie Popper, Valeria Whitworth, & John Evarts

edited by John Evarts & Marjorie Popper

illustrated by Eugene O. Murman & Susan Bazell



10.1×7.4in • 26×19cm

228 pages

230 color photos

index included

ISBNs: 0962850551 • 9780962850554

Cachuma Press • 2001

Coast redwood is the world's tallest tree.  It is also one of the most useful,rapidly producing enormous volumes of high-grade timber that satisfies many of man's structural and esthetic needs.  It grows in very wet habitats that support high biodiversity.  And the land it grows on is often fragile and easily eroded with disastrous consequences.

For these reasons, and some others, the management and conservation of coast redwood has for well over a century been a focus of popular passions and public policies.  From the fraudulent land-grabs of the Timber and Stone Act days to the tree-sit of Julia Butterfly Hill, this valuable and beautiful tree has excited those who would destroy it,those who would preserve it, and those who would use it sustainably.  Coast redwood is also a botanical curiosity, from its hexaploid genome to its clonal habit; and much has been learned of its paleohistory.

Finally, it is probably the tree that is known of by more people than any other, famous almost everywhere in the world.  It is not surprising that much ink has been spilled over the years because of this tree.  It has probably inspired the writing of more books than any other woody species, and the publication of more pretty pictures.  Unfortunately, most of those books were written when little was known of the science of redwood; or when environmental photography had few practitioners; or by authors who knew a good sales opportunity but had little knowledge of their subject.

Well, finally a redwood book has emerged that has the facts to match its utterly stunning pictorials.  Though team-written by six authors, its expertise is unquestioned, and its smooth editing lets you glide without bumps from one topic to another.  And the topics are comprehensive: origins and distribution, life history, ecology, wildlife, harvest and utilization, history of preservation, and conservation and management.

Before writing this review I focused mainly on the biology, and found it nearly impeccable, and far more detailed than what is available elsewhere.  But I found myself frequently turning pages to admire the color photos, or the nineteenth century black-and-whites, or the fascinating sidebars on a wide variety of subjects.  So maybe I missed an overstatement, or even a blunder somewhere.  Maybe.

But since this is hands-down the most sumptously illustrated, factually rich monograph of any single tree species ever written for a popular and professional readership, I can only recommend you buy it.  But only if you have an interest in forestry, botany, the environment, conservation, history, or wildlife.  And if you think you can keep friends and family members from snatching it when your back is turned.

Ronald Lanner

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