258 pages, 9 b/w illustrations
One of humankind's oldest companions, the hawthorn tree, is bound up in the memories of every recorded age and the plot lines of cultures all across the Northern Hemisphere. Hawthorn examines the little-recognized political, cultural, and natural history of this ancient spiky plant.
Used for thousands of years in the impenetrable living fences that defined the landscapes of Europe, the hawthorn eventually helped feed the class antagonism that led to widespread social upheaval. In the American Midwest, hawthorn-inspired hedges on the prairies made nineteenth-century farming economically rewarding for the first time. Later, in Normandy, mazelike hedgerows bristling with these thorns nearly cost the Allies World War II. Bill Vaughn shines light on the full scope of the tree's influence over human events. He also explores medicinal uses of the hawthorn, the use of its fruit in the world's first wine, and the symbolic role its spikes and flowers played in pagan beliefs and Christian iconography. As entertaining as it is illuminating, Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages is the first full appreciation of the hawthorn's abundant connections with humanity.
"This jack-of-all-trees story makes for a compelling read, spiced with arcane history and Vaughn's own anecdotes."
– Science News
"Wow! This is quite extraordinary [...] I was absolutely riveted from the first paragraph. Vaughn's writing is often deeply literary, but at the same time, one can see the wheels of an innate environmentalist turning in intricate circles, sketching out a narrative that is by turns thoughtful, funny, informative, and even astonishing."
– Daniel Lewis, Huntington Library
"Bill Vaughn romps through the thickets and hedgerows of biology and culture, emerging with fascinating tales about an unjustly neglected species."
– David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen
"Hawthorn is a delightful book about a tree that has deeply influenced European and American landscapes and cultures. Vaughn is a gifted storyteller who writes with flair and nuance."
– Ruth Kassinger, author of A Garden of Marvels
"A fascinating exploration into how a tough, thorny tree could have so much human and personal history carved into it, from war and famine to fairy tales and founding fathers. Hawthorn tells a story as charmingly and intricately branching as its subject."
– Paul Collins, author of Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars
"Bill Vaughn fully succeeds in making the reader feel as if he has followed along on a journey of revelation inspired by a chance encounter with a hawthorn. The book is exceedingly original and the author does an excellent job weaving together a wide range of material."
– Todd A. Forrest, The New York Botanical Garden
"The hawthorn story is as multi-layered as its appearance and Vaughn's narrative is tight, but never impenetrable."
– Jack Watkins, Optima
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Bill Vaughn is a contributing editor for Outside magazine and writes for many other publications about topics ranging from sports to the paper industry, fashion to Jesse James. Also a graphic artist, he has designed and composed more than 400 books. He lives outside Missoula, MT, with his wife, dogs, and horses.