Trees in Paradise: A California History

Jared Farmer. Norton, $35 (522p) ISBN 978-0-393-07802-2
In this meticulously researched tome, Farmer (On Zion’s Mount) explores California’s history and politics through the lens of four of the state’s most notable trees: redwood, eucalyptus, orange, and palm. “California’s genius may be green, but its underlying beauty is brown,” notes the author. “By transforming the treescape, Californians did more than make dreams reality. They altered ecosystems.” To his point, surprisingly, most of the trees associated with the Golden State didn’t originate there. Eucalyptus was imported from Australia and orange trees came from Spain (they often needed to be heated with oil pots during cold snaps). Most California palms are not native to the state, with the exception of the fan palm, although they do thrive in Southern California’s coastal areas. Yet despite being arboreal immigrants, each became a symbol of a different part of the state: redwoods are associated with Northern California, oranges with Southern California, palms with Hollywood, and eucalyptus throughout. (For those interested in learning more, Farmer includes a detailed list of suggestions for further reading.) The book offers a thorough look at the natural aspects of this massive, diverse state, and while extremely detailed, Farmer’s engaging prose holds readers attention. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/26/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Open Ebook - 544 pages - 978-0-393-24127-3
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