The 'mighty tōtara' is one of New Zealand's most extraordinary trees. Among the biggest and oldest trees in the New Zealand forest, the heart of Maori carving and culture, trailing no. 8 wire as fence posts on settler farms, clambered up in the Pureora protests of the 1980s: the story of New Zealand can be told through tōtara. Simpson tells that story like nobody else could. In words and pictures, through waka and leaves, farmers and carvers, he takes us deep inside the trees: their botany and evolution, their role in Maori life and lore, their uses by Pakeha, and their current status in New Zealand's environment and culture. By doing so, Simpson illuminates the natural world and the story of Maori and Pakeha in this country. New Zealand's largest trees, the kauri Tane Mahuta and the tōtara Pouakani, are both thought to be around 1000 years old. They were here before humans were and their relatives will probably be here when we are gone. Tōtara has been central to life in New Zealand for thousands of years. Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History tells a great tree's story, and that is New Zealand's story too.
Philip Simpson is a botanist and author of Dancing Leaves: The Story of New Zealand's Cabbage Tree, Ti Kouka (Canterbury University Press, 2000) and Pōhutukawa and Rātā: New Zealand's Iron-hearted Trees (Te Papa Press, 2005). Both books won Montana Book Awards in the Environment category and Pōhutukawa and Rātā also won the Montana Medal for best non-fiction book. Simpson is unique in his ability to combine the scientific expertise of the trained botanist with a writer's ability to understand the history of Maori and Pakeha interactions with the environment. He was awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer's Fellowship to work on Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History. Born, raised and now living in Takaka, Philip studied botany at Canterbury University and UC Santa Barbara. He worked in soil conservation, environmental education, and ecology in the public service before becoming a botanical consultant and author. Philip lives on a rural, bush property with his wife, wine scientist Wendy Parr, and he is father to five adult children and grandfather to eight.