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
Arborist William Bryant Logan recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.
Once, farmers knew how to make a living hedge and fed their flocks on tree-branch hay. 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 cut 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 most diverse woodlands that we have ever known. In this journey from the English fens to Spain, Japan, and California, William Bryant Logan rediscovers what was once an everyday ecology. He 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.
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.
Bryant knows trees, and much more. Tree lovers—even those who consider pollarded trees ghastly and strange—will be drawn in by Bryant's vast cultural and scientific references, and charmed by passages that read like prose poems.
A graceful homage abounding in fascinating discoveries.
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
Infused with intimately detailed attention to science and culture, this deeply nourishing book invites us to reclaim reciprocity with the living world. Logan reminds us of our capacity for 'a life where head, heart, and hand'—and tree—work together.
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass and Burroughs medalist Gathering Moss
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. Logan breaks out of the false dichotomy between romanticized protection and selfish exploitation of trees, showing that careful, enlightened blades and flames give life to people, trees, and community.
— David George Haskell, author of Burroughs medalist The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen
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 the book 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 and others
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
[Sprout Lands] changed the way I think about pruning, and actually about trees in general in the most profound way.
— Margaret Roach