cover image Tree: A Life Story

Tree: A Life Story

David T. Suzuki, Wayne Grady. Greystone Books, $20 (190pp) ISBN 978-1-55365-016-4

Visitors to the Pacific Northwest often find themselves awed by the size of the trees, especially the grand and ubiquitous ""Douglas-fir."" In this slight, lovely book, environmentalist Suzuki (The Sacred Balance) and Grady (The Bone Museum) tell the tale of one Douglas-fir tree that lived for more than five centuries (""Around the time its seed was soaking in the sunshine... the Aztec Empire was building its capital city""). Woven into the narrative is a history of botany, the study of which developed during the tree's life (a digression about the Big Bang and the formation of organic molecules feels unnecessary, though). Facts about the species awe: old Douglas-firs can have 12-inch thick fireproof bark, and it can take 36 hours for water to get from the roots to the canopy. ""If left alone,"" write the authors, ""our tree would grow forever."" Bateman's misty drawings offer portraits of the tree's companions--woodpeckers, eagles, mice, ferns--whose lives are more fleeting. Suzuki and Grady lament the loss of old-growth forests and their biodiversity, showing how each tree is part of a massive, interconnected web of organisms including fungi, birds and insects. This book is both a touching look at a single tree and an articulate testimony to nature's cyclic power. 13 b&w illus.