Tales of the Trees
Many people live on streets with names like Maple, Elm, or Sycamore, and yet too few of us – especially children – remember that these are tree names or know what these trees look like. My guest on this week’s show is Diana Wells, author of the best-seller 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names, and a new work, Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History. I am always fascinated by the stories behind plants, and feel that learning these intimate tales is a great way to ignite an interest in the importance of living things like trees.
We are all dependent on trees. Just think about that pencil in your hand, paper your writing on while sitting at your wooden desk on your wooden chair. Then there are foods such as avocados, apples, peaches, lemons, even maple syrup; spices like cinnamon; and medicines like quinine.
I learned so many things about trees in the book, for example, that ebony is related to persimmon, why a horse chestnut is called a horse chestnut, and how Hollywood got its name when hollies don’t even grow in Southern California. I love the story of the shipwreck off the coast of Florida, when Cuban coconuts on board floated to the beach and sprouted, and that the sailors who survived later named the place “Palm Beach.” Who knew?
One of the most fascinating trees in the book is the Welwitschia mirabilis from the Namib Desert, which only puts out two leaves that sit on the desert floor and continue to grow for its entire life. How do we know this plant is a tree? Because it has an underground trunk ten feet tall.What’s your favorite tall tree tale?
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