Joan Keener
September 29, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Some are as tall as cathedrals and as old as written history. The Hindus worship them; New Zealanders give them personal names. From the fig to the fir to the frangipani, trees are among nature’s most bounteous creations, supplying us with food and fuel as well as piano keys and the tracks of the Paris Métro. In The Tree, Colin Tudge combines vast knowledge of evolutionary biology with a gift for storytelling — as well as surveying the 60,000-odd species of today. Despite some tongue-tripping taxonomy, Tudge kindles our ardor for these ”big plant[s] with a stick up the middle” that he argues may hold the key to curbing global warming.

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