Around the World in 80 Trees

Starting from London and zigzagging in an easterly direction, Jonathan Drori takes us on a grand tour visiting 80 of the world’s most interesting and exotic trees. Literally Around the World in 80 Trees.

The book is printed on heavy paper stock and lavishly illustrated by Lucille Clerc. It’s beautiful!

Drori is a trustee of The Eden Project and an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund. He’s also a former trustee of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Cover of Around the World in 80 Trees showing silver birch trees

Around the World in 80 Trees
By Jonathan Drori. Illustrations by Lucille Clerc
Laurence King Publishing, London, 2018

Drori takes just a page or two of text to sketch out the physical characteristics of each tree, how they reproduce, how they fit into their local ecosystems, the origins of their names, and the history of how they’ve been used by humans.  

There are fascinating facts and tidbits about each one too. Here are a few.

  • Before the development of tarmac, blocks of Australian jarrah wood were used to pave streets in London. The wood was easier on horses’ hooves than cobblestones, and resistant to London’s frequent rain.
  • There’s a stand of about 45,000 quaking aspen trees in Utah covering over 40 hectares that grow from a common root system. It’s a single organism, probably the largest single organism in the world.
  • Chewing the bark of the willow tree has long been known to reduce pain and fever. That’s because it contains salicin, a chemical relative of aspirin.

I loved Lucille Clerc’s lush illustrations. They bring the book to life. Clerc is a graphic designer and illustrator based in London. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Around the World in 80 Trees is a collection of Clerc’s illustrations with accompanying text by Drori.

Here’s her illustration of the pomegranate tree.

Illustration of the pomegranate tree by Lucille Clerc
Illustration of the pomegranate tree by Lucille Clerc

I don’t know how Drori chose his 80 trees other than their geographic distribution. Perhaps just his own fancy. That’s OK – it’s his book after all. There’s a good mix of common and lesser-known ones. Still I would have enjoyed reading about the Douglas fir and maybe one of Australia’s stringybark eucalyptus trees. We all have our favorites, I suppose.

One somber yet important aspect of the book is how many of these beautiful tree species are endangered either by over-logging, habitat destruction or climate change. Time and again, Drori tells how a particular tree was discovered to have some use or benefit that people could make a profit from – those jarrah trees for example — followed by an insane rush to cut down as many of them as quickly as possible.

Today, climate change is perhaps the greater threat. In British Columbia, for example Drori tells how the mountain pine beetle has attacked around 45 million acres of Lodgepole pine, an area larger than New England. The pine beetle is a boring insect that lays its eggs in the tree’s inner bark. In the past, BC’s cold winters would kill off most of the larvae and the trees could survive. With global warming, that is no longer so.  

Trees and forests are incredibly beneficial to us and to the planet. We should be doing more to preserve and protect them.

Around the World in 80 Trees shows us their rich and varied beauty and highlights how much is at stake.

* * *

Thanks to Deb @ Readerbuzz for recommending this book.

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11 Responses to Around the World in 80 Trees

  1. Around the World in 80 Trees. Absolutely fabulous! Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Harry, I’ve recently come across your blog due to Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle’s recommendation. Looking forward to following your reviews!

    I spotted this book in a shop some time ago and bought it as a gift for my sister, who is a self-professed tree lover. Your review has me thinking I should pluck it from her shelf and give it a read…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Harry Katz says:

      Hi Jenna, nice of you to leave this comment. (And thanks to Lory for the referral.)
      Looks like you’ve got an interesting blog too!
      Yes you should absolutely pluck this book off your sister’s shelf! Or maybe buy another copy as a gift to yourself. 🙂
      All the best in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m currently reading a book (Atlas of the Heart) printed on somewhat heavy paper stock and the book is so weighty! But it feels important in my hands. 🙂 Around the World in 80 Trees sounds similar.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It seems there are very few parts of the natural world that aren’t endangered these days! This looks like a really lovely book and the fun facts you shared were wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

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