Book Review - A History of Trees by Simon Wills

Trees are a vital part of our environment, they surround us in our gardens, on our streets and in our cities.  This new book from Simon Wills gives us the history, fables and context of many of these trees we share our lives with.  I have not paid this for this book and I have not been paid to write this review.  My words and opinions are my own.
The book is alphabetically arranged into twenty eight chapters, starting with the Alder and ending with the Yew.  Simon explains that he has not tried to include every British tree and that he has not tried to only focus on native trees; but he has aimed to choose trees with 'an interesting tale to tell'.

Simon achieves his aim as the book is full of interesting tales and information.  I was quickly hooked into reading this book.   You learn from the chapter on the alder about its usefulness in damp and wet conditions; that its roots help stablise river banks and that large parts of Venice are built on alder timbers.

You move into the chapter concerning the apple tree and the stories around it.  If you are talking apples you expect to be told about Newton and there is a moving piece about the death of Alan Turing.

Through the chapters you go, there is fact and fable, science and legend.
There are cautionary chapters such as the elm which was so tragically devasted by Dutch Elm Disease back in the 1970s.  A period I remember well when growing up but I did not really understand the extent of the damage that was caused.

Some trees you expect to see in there in a book about British trees, others you might not expect to, but you have to remember that Simon has made no claim that they will all be native.  So of course the Monkey Puzzle tree is in there, it is a common sight in front gardens in some areas and has been a part of British culture since the nineteenth century when they started to be grown more widely by the more affluent in society.  Time moves on and they became more accessible and so they are now a common sight.  Similarly the Magnolia is a chapter. Where would so many front gardens be without this tree?

I really enjoyed this book, it is entertaining and informative.  It is not a heavy read and very much a book you can dip in and out of.  I am happy to recommend it.

A History of Trees by Simon Wills is published by White Owl Books, Pen and Sword Ltd.


  1. Sounds like my kind of book. I may well have to indulge....


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