From the compass plant to myrrh, around the world in 80 trees

From the compass plant to myrrh, around the world in 80 trees
From the compass plant to myrrh, around the world in 80 trees

(by Mauro Garofalo)

Everything comes from the trees. The fruit, the flowers, the corks. We live in houses where the floors, ceilings, shelves, bookcases come from trees. We enjoy enormous benefits thanks to trees, and even sometimes we forget them, we take them for granted: we are blind to plants, we treat them as mere scenery. While talking about the history of trees means talking about the history of humanity, which has always linked its fortune to trees: just think of the construction of ships or paper mills.

We are reminded of this by two newly released publications that celebrate the green giants by retracing their link with humanity: Around the world in 80 trees by Jonathan Drori (illustrations by Lucille Clerc, € 19.90) and The history of trees and how they changed our way of life by Kevin Hobbs & David West (illustrations by Thibaud Hérem, € 19.90), both published by the refined publishing house L’ippocampo.

In Around the World in 80 Trees, the author takes us to the discovery of some of the 391,000 vascular plants that exist in nature, of which about a quarter are trees. Drori is WWF ambassador, trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the Woodland Trust for 9 years. In his story we find the common boxwood or mortella, the heaviest of the European woods, a low hedge plant used by the ancient Romans as in Versailles, whose honey, wrote Aristotle, “heals epileptics”. The alder on which all of Venice rests, a wood that maintains its compressive force in the water for centuries. The Traveler’s Tree, Ravenala madagascariensis, on the other hand, is said to be a compass, as its arch of leaves always points in a certain direction. And again, the sought-after Sea Coconut, whose seed can weigh up to 30 kilos.

Hobbs & West’s book is complementary to Druri’s. The two authors here – inveterate travelers, plant hunters – retrace the history of man through the focal lens of trees. The result is a publication full of curiosities. We discover that Gingko biloba is a symbol of hope: they were the first plants to appear after the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima. The Ficus carica, on the other hand, is most likely the oldest fruit tree cultivated on earth, in the whole world (some Israeli archaeologists have discovered crops along the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee dating back to 23,000 years ago. The common walnut flourished in the gardens hanging of Babylon, and is one of the healthiest foods: “30 grams of walnuts contain 100% of the recommended daily dose of Omega 3 fats and antioxidants. The consumption of walnuts favors those suffering from heart disease, can reduce the risk of cancer prostate and breast, it is beneficial for the brain and counteracts type 2 diabetes “.

Hobbs & West then let us discover that the legendary myrrh is a thorny and resistant plant that comes from the Arabian peninsula and some areas of Africa, its resin can be used as perfume, incense and medicine. While, speaking of Christmas, the Douglas fir is used as a festive tree in America, which in reality is not even a fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii belongs to the Pinaceae): for many years it was the tallest tree in the world, a specimen born on Vancouver Island measured 127 meters.

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