Sunday book review – A Tree Miscellany by Ian Parsons

This is a small book (88 pages) of interesting facts about trees written by Ian Parsons, an occasional Guest Blogger here.

They are the sort of facts that you can use to amaze your friends with your knowledge. That’s what I shall be doing anyway.

Do you know what is the oldest tree in the world? I do! Fig pollination and extra protein anyone? King Cativolcus anyone? Under which species of tree did the Tolpuddle Martyrs form their union? Third commonest pub name in Britain?

I’m pretty tree-ignorant, and maybe you know all this stuff already but if you don’t then you may well really enjoy this book, as I did. It’s easy reading and great fun.

A Tree Miscellany by Ian Parsons is self-published and available from Amazon.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.  Updated paperback edition now out.


8 Replies to “Sunday book review – A Tree Miscellany by Ian Parsons”

  1. Mark, thanks for this review.
    Judging by what you say and Ian’s guest blogs, it’s obvious that this book contains trivia that are essential reading for everyone. And even if you are not a tree person, the Tolpuddle Martyrs should swing it for many.
    It’s on the ‘to buy list’ and the first thing to read about will be that tree they met under.

  2. Sounds like a great book… but I very much doubt it nails down the oldest tree in the world. I’m interested in what it favours. Having once had a bit of an obsession over this great piece of pub trivia, I have concluded (to myself!) that we will likely never know. Whether it’s (more) fun books by the likes of Thomas Pakenham or more serious stuff by Oliver Rackham, correctly ageing a tree seems to be the stuff of much debate and confusion. In the olden days (well, a few decades back), most would be happy with Old Methuselah as you can ‘core’ the growth rings and be sure to the nearest year… but then came the big debate over interpolations based on long-rotted-away gaps with Yews like that of Fortingall. I have seen significantly different estimations put up in print for those. And all this is beside the debate over what do we actually define as old (aka Trigger’s Broom Theory), as with clonal colonies and genetically identical copies like the Huon Pines in Tasmania and Pando Aspen Grove in Colorado! Anyway, enough waffle!

    1. Hi John, you are right, the question of what is the oldest tree in the world is not an easy one to mention (but then again try answering the simple question of ‘What is tree?’…) I mention everything from the Bristlecones through to Pando, plus the spruces in Scandinavia, in the book so hopefully I cover most bases!

      1. Thanks, Ian. And yes, the definition of an actual tree is a bit of a tough one, too! Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’ve spread your ‘canopy’ wide re the various contenders then! Cheers.

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