Approaches to the natural world vary over time and geography, but one thing is certain in the early 21st century: our approach--in which nature is a resource to be exploited without thought to the consequences of depletion and destruction--is leading us toward disaster. And so, we need a new paradigm, and quickly.
William Bryant Logan's history of the simple but lost art of coppicing and pollarding, which are pruning practices that enable trees to live, in some cases, for centuries even as they are harvested for wood, provides a small way to re-imagine our approach to a more sustainable and ethical relationship with the natural world.
Beautifully written and full of anecdote, Sprout Lands belongs on the shelf with The Hidden Life of Trees and The Overstory.— Stephen
Winner of the 2021 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing
"This deeply nourishing book invites us to reclaim reciprocity with the living world." —Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass
Once, farmers and rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls, and baskets. Townspeople felled their beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks. Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. No place could prosper without its inhabitants knowing how to cut their trees so they would sprout again.
Pruning the trees didn’t destroy them. Rather, it created the healthiest, most sustainable and diverse woodlands that we have ever known. Arborist William Bryant Logan offers us both practical knowledge about how to live with trees to mutual benefit and hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach. He recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.
About the Author
William Bryant Logan is a practicing arborist and the author of four acclaimed books on nature: Sprout Lands, Dirt, Oak, and Air. He is on the faculty of the New York Botanical Garden and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
A metaphor for hope in a changing world.
— Barbara Kiser - Nature
Logan’s words are full of beauty, awe, and practical wisdom. At a time when forests are in crisis worldwide, his call to deeper, more intimate connection with our leafy cousins is both timely and important.
— David George Haskell, author of John Burroughs Medalist The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen
Any subject the poetical William Bryant Logan tackles is guaranteed to be rich and surprising.
— Dominique Browning - New York Times Book Review
William Bryant Logan’s enthusiasm is contagious, his knowledge jaw-dropping. He has poured heart and soul into this beautiful book, his writing poetic but also practical, hopeful, brilliant. Logan is the Bernd Heinrich of trees. His work is heroic. When [Sprout Lands] ends I am an unremitting, fiendish tree nerd. I had no idea I would fall this hard.
— Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
[Sprout Lands] changed the way I think about pruning, and actually about trees in general, in the most profound way.
— Margaret Roach - A Way to Garden podcast
William Bryant Logan’s vision of a world in which humans and trees work together to mutual benefit—a world that has existed in the past and can exist again in the future—is cause for deep joy, for celebration and hope.
— Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees
If you feel profound respect and affection for trees, maybe even a touch of awe, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in William Bryant Logan.… Logan takes us around the globe to show how woodlands have supported human life, and how humans, in turn, have cared for woodlands. We are the richer for the understanding he shares with us.
— Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto
[Logan] knows trees, and much more. Tree lovers—even those who consider pollarded trees ghastly and strange, will be drawn in by [Logan’s] vast cultural and scientific references, and charmed by passages that read like prose poems.
— Library Journal (starred review)
[Logan’s] astute attentiveness and curiosity have resulted in a radiant, insightful amalgam of botany, history, travel memoir, anthropology, archaeology, philosophical meditation, and, not least, environmental ecology.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Mindful of debts owed and fearful of a future where such wisdom is wasted, Logan speaks of these kindred spirits, both plant and human, with admiration and affection. The result is a lush and lyrical homage to the role trees play in culture, from healing and beauty to sustenance and safety.