In search of the old ones An odyssey among ancient trees

Anthony D. Fredericks

Book - 2023

"An extraordinary journey to visit the oldest trees in the United States that beautifully reveals the connection between humans and natural history"--

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Popular works
Washington, DC : Smithsonian Books [2023]
Main Author
Anthony D. Fredericks (author)
Other Authors
Rebecca Noelle Purvis (illustrator), Phyllis Disher Fredericks
Physical Description
242 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • I. Oldest of the Old
  • 1. Old Warriors (Bristlecone Pines, Eastern California)
  • 2. Realm of the Old Man (The Patriarch Tree, Eastern California)
  • 3. Against a Crooked Sky (Prometheus, Eastern Nevada)
  • II. Into the Forest
  • 4. Touching Clouds (Redwoods, Northern California)
  • 5. Kayaking through Time (Bald Cypress, Southeastern North Carolina)
  • 6. Beyond Memory (Pando, Central Utah)
  • 7. Giants of the Sierras (Sequoias, Central California)
  • III. Standing Alone
  • 8. Prehistoric Roots (Palmer's Oak, Southern California)
  • 9. Sequestered Icon (Bennett Juniper, Central California)
  • 10. Sight to See (Seven Sisters Oak, Southern Louisiana)
  • Conclusion: In Celebration of Old Trees
  • Appendix: The Oldest Trees in the World
  • Acknowledgments
  • References and Readings
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Fredericks (The Secret Life of Clams), a professor emeritus of education at York College of Pennsylvania, serves up pensive if rambling meditations on 10 species of trees that can live to be more than a thousand years old. Exploring the adaptations that contribute to the trees' longevity, he explains that California's redwoods evolved needle-like leaves capable of absorbing fog, which spares the trees from having to transport water 350 or so feet from their roots to their uppermost branches, and that bristlecone pines developed shallow roots to better "seize the scarce moisture" in California's White Mountains. Fredericks adorns the science with poetic flourishes, including scenes depicting what humans were doing around the time that some of the oldest existing trees sprouted. For example, he describes a Wanakipa teenager watching her mother collect shellfish for dinner around 10,979 BCE to emphasize the age of a 13,000-year-old colony of palmer's oak in Riverside County, Calif. The lack of an overall argument tying together the science, anecdotes about Fredericks seeking out the trees in their natural habitats, and dendrochronology methods makes this feel a bit meandering, but the author's reverence for his subjects endears ("Wise teachers, those redwoods"). The result is a ruminative exploration of some of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Illus. (Oct.)

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