What is a tree?


Fig tree in mist, Ravensbourne NP

Harry, Max, James and fig tree, Ravensbourne National Park

What is a tree? Is a tree just a lump of wood crowned by leaves? A tree in truth with a nail in its side, beauty built out of air and stones – mellow in death, lively in spite of human foolishness. Trees adore wind and birds, sunlight and sweet air, kookaburras and crows, raindrops in quiet evenings. Nobody but a plant can dine so noiselessly, and on such strange foods as the invisible carbon of the air and the harsh minerals of the ground.

Nobody but a tree can grow so huge – not even whales and dinosaurs. Nobody but a plant has green blood to capture the energy of the sun. Trees have no blood banks to succour them after fire and mutilation, yet without the green stuff of their sap, there would be no redness in animal blood, no sun’s energy and no life for us who cannot dine on dust. A tree is a magic creature, whose ancestors are lost in the mists of time …

Len Webb (1963), Wildlife Australia, 1:3 p10

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