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Ancient Trees - book of the month

Kew's 'Book of the month' is Ancient Trees (second edition) by Edward Parker and Anna Lewington. Read on to discover more about this fantastic new book published by Batsford in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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Ancient Trees

Ancient Trees, by Parker and Lewington

Introducing Kew Publishing's 'Book of the month'

Welcome to our brand new 'Book of the month' feature. Over the coming months, we aim to showcase the very best of Kew Publishing and highlight some of our newest titles, as well as giving you an insight into the authors behind the work.

We'll be exploring what you can expect to see and read in each of the selected books, what excites us about them, as well as giving you a sneak preview of some of the content itself.

Of course, we’d also love to hear your reviews too. Do share your comments below and let us know what you think of our monthly picks! 

Gina Fullerlove, Head of Publishing, Design & Photography, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

About the author

Edward Parker

Edward Parker

Edward Parker is a renowned and prize-winning photographer and has worked as a photographer in more than 30 countries, documenting environmental issues. He is the author of Photographing Trees (Kew Publishing, 2012) and runs a related photography course at Kew Gardens. Anna Lewington is a well-known writer and researcher on the uses people make of plants, and her previous books include Plants for People (Eden Project Book, 2003) and several educational books.

Ancient Trees - about the book

Readers can expect to be taken on a journey across the world from Chile to South Korea and from Mexico to Lebanon where they will be able to read about, and enjoy images of, some of the world’s greatest trees both in terms of size and age.

Each chapter highlights a tree or group of trees that have individuals over 1,000 years old, and then focuses in on the botany, ecology, cultural and religious significance. The authors tease out fascinating facts and stories, such as the legend associated with the 'Tree of a Hundred Horses' in Sicily, the origin myths of the ancient trees in Amazonian Indian culture and the search for wild populations of Ginkgo biloba trees with individuals over 3,000 years old.

You can download excerpts from Ancient Trees here:

Q&A with the author

As we look forward to the publication of Ancient Trees on September 18th, we speak to one of the authors, Edward Parker, about his inspiration and passion for trees.

1.) What was your inspiration behind Ancient Trees?

'Anna and I have carried out a lot of environmental campaigning work for organisations such as WWF-UK and WWF International especially to do with sustainable and indigenous management of forests – temperate and tropical. Ancient trees provided a fascinating hook for people who may not have been interested in forests in general but could appreciate the historical, cultural and then environmental qualities of ancient trees. The initial inspiration came when Anna and I were compiling a report on Chuilean deforestation and spent time with the indigenous people to whom the monkey puzzle trees are sacred. After finding out that these curious, prickly trees can live to over 1,000 years old, we then started looking for other species that lived as long.'

2.) What makes Ancient Trees unique?

'It was the first illustrated celebration of ancient trees over 1000 years old on a global scale and remains a unique mix of botanical, dendrochronological, environmental, cultural and historical information.'

3.) How long did it take to write?

'The first edition took a little over a year to research, write and photograph. This updated edition took around six months to contact most of the relevant experts on each of the tree species and update each chapter to reflect the improved understanding of how ancient trees live and survive.'

On one occasion I forgot to take a chocolate bar out of my jacket before trudging in deep snow to photograph the largest tree in volume on the planet – the General Sherman – only to find that I had a hungry bear following me!

Edward Parker - co-author of Ancient Trees

4.) Are there any interesting stories as a result of researching the book?

'There are numerous interesting stories associated with tracking down the oldest trees on the planet...

  • Photographing the giant redwoods in moonlight only to turn around in the dark and shine my torch directly into the face of a mountain lion that had been observing me!
  • Spending a day with the monstrous 'El Tule' Montezuma cypress tree in Mexico - nearly 120ft round!
  • Getting lost in the Australian rainforest at night - a forest full of stinging trees, trapdoor spiders and venomous snakes - after photographing a 3,000 year old Antarctic beech tree'

5.) Finally, who would you recommend the book to?

'The book really does have something for everyone. For the tree lover there is information and stories on some of the greatest expressions of nature that adorn the planet. For the traveller there are the remarkable locations and journeys associated with each of the trees featured – contemporary and historical. For the historian there are the stories of the passage of time as the trees stand sentinel in the landscape, such as the 'immortal' yew and events such as the burial of Welsh kings and the signing of the Magna Carta. For those interested in different cultures, there are the fascinating insights into how central ancient trees and forests have always been to people around the world such as the Maoris in New Zealand, the Zapotecs in Mexico and the Celts and Norse in northern Europe. For the botanist and environmentalist there is information on the importance of ancient trees and ancient forests to the survival of many rare species of plants and animal. And for the photographer there are many beautiful images to admire.'

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