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Nature's largest and longest-lived creations, trees play an extraordinarily important role in our cityscapes, living landmarks that define space, cool the air, soothe our psyches, and connect us to nature and our past. Today, four fifths of Americans live in or near cities, surrounded by millions of trees, urban forests containing hundreds of species. Despite the ubiquity and familiarity of those trees, most of us take them for granted and know little of their specific natural history or civic virtues.
Jill Jonnes's Urban Forests is a passionate, wide-ranging, and fascinating natural history of the tree in American cities over the course of the past two centuries. Jonnes s survey ranges from early sponsors for the Urban Tree Movement to the fascinating stories of particular species (including Washington, DC's famed cherry trees, and the American chestnut and elm, and the diseases that almost destroyed them) to the institution of Arbor Day to the most recent generation of tree evangelists who are identifying the best species to populate our cities leafy canopies. Urban Forests examines such questions as the character of American urban forests and the effect that tree-rich landscaping might have on commerce, crime, and human well-being. As we wrestle with how to repair the damage we have wrought on nature and how to slow climate change, urban forests offer an obvious, low-tech solution.
"Far-ranging and deeply researched, Urban Forests reveals the beauty and significance of the trees around us."
– Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction
"Jonnes explores the challenges America's horticulturalists have faced while cultivating the leafy plants in metropolitan settings as well as demonstrating how much trees are cherished by those who work and live among them [...] A fascinating slice of both urban and natural history that tree lovers and everyone interested in city life will enjoy."
"A comprehensive look at the trees of American cities [...] this book deserves great interest; indeed, no one who has loved a single tree will be able to set it aside [...] Scientific without being tedious and political only in the sense of our responsibility to and respect for nature (or lack thereof), the narrative is sure to fascinate nature lovers and natural scientists alike [...] Jonnes diligently follows the work in large cities, especially Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, where the Climate Project established that trees should be regarded as essential green infrastructure [...] Equally interesting, and certainly frightening, is the author's coverage of significant threats to trees, including Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer [...] A lovingly written book that should appeal to most city dwellers and all tree lovers."
– Kirkus Reviews