Teaching the Trees
Lessons from the Forest

Joan Maloof

Why we can never learn enough about the trees around us


"Walk along with Joan Maloof through a forest, and you will see, hear, and smell stories better than anything on the Discovery Channel or, for that matter, in the Brothers Grimm. These are parables to live with, offered by a storyteller-biologist who is one part Thoreau on fruits, one part Alcock on insects, and one part Rilke on poetry."
—Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Cross-Pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry

"In Teaching the Trees, Joan Maloof combines science, heart, and spirit as a wonderful reminder of how important, special, and sacred trees are to us and to our world. Use this book as your call to action to conserve, protect, and restore our earth's trees and forests."
—Julia Butterfly Hill

"The heartwood of this book harbors a kind of genius in fine and even grain: the power to look at the familiar and reveal for us its magic as for the very first time. From deep and soulful roots this book rises into a work of love and wonder, crowned by a high, overarching intelligence that changes forever our wide view of the surrounding world."
—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Eye of the Albatross

"Maloof reveals little known facts about the trees we all thought we knew so well and many of the other organisms with which they interact. She is a skilled and engaging storyteller. This small book is suitable for anyone who enjoys reading about nature and is fascinated by the many unseen interactions between organisms."
Southeastern Naturalist

"Trees, the dominant life form of most undisturbed terrestrial ecosystems, get a fitting tribute in this engaging collection of eco-meditations. . . . The resulting mix of scientific lore and acute personal observation makes for a beguiling walk in the woods."
Publishers Weekly

"An impassioned take on the sacred nature of trees, with natural-history essays touching on their critical role in all our lives."
Body + Soul

"A fascinating study of what is going on in and under our very noses when walking through nature’s blessed wonder—the natural forest. . . . Her book combines astute awareness with keen intellect. If this is the teaching style her students are accustomed to, they are to be envied."
Rapid River Magazine

"A lovely collection of essays as spur and solace . . . A biologist by training, the author makes good use of poetry and history to demonstrate the connections between the trees and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants. A gem."

“Interpolating her observations about the natural world with words by poet Rainer Rilke, biologist Maloof examines forest ecology, often from the perspective of the mast and microfauna on the forest floor—weevils that inhabit acorns, snails that live in rich debris below trees, and parasitic wasps that dwell on a species of leafminer found only on the American holly. Clearly, to know such details is to care about them.”

“As an ardent admirer of all things arboreal, Maloof eloquently entices readers to share her passion for preserving and appreciating them.”
American Gardener

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In this collection of natural-history essays, biologist Joan Maloof embarks on a series of lively, fact-filled expeditions into forests of the eastern United States. Through Maloof’s engaging, conversational style, each essay offers a lesson in stewardship as it explores the interwoven connections between a tree species and the animals and insects whose lives depend on it—and who, in turn, work to ensure the tree’s survival.

Never really at home in a laboratory, Maloof took to the woods early in her career. Her enthusiasm for firsthand observation in the wild spills over into her writing, whether the subject is the composition of forest air, the eagle’s preference for nesting in loblolly pines, the growth rings of the bald cypress, or the gray squirrel’s fondness for weevil-infested acorns. With a storyteller’s instinct for intriguing particulars, Maloof expands our notions about what a tree “is” through her many asides—about the six species of leafhoppers who eat only sycamore leaves or the midges who live inside holly berries and somehow prevent them from turning red.

As a scientist, Maloof accepts that trees have a spiritual dimension that cannot be quantified. As an unrepentant tree hugger, she finds support in the scientific case for biodiversity. As an activist, she can’t help but wonder how much time is left for our forests.

Page count: 176 pp.
19 b&w photos
Trim size: 5 x 8.5


List price: $19.95

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Joan Maloof is a professor emeritus of biology and environmental studies at Salisbury University.