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New England Natives.

In characteristic New England understatement, the author writes: ". . . I have attempted to provide a glimpse into the cultural and natural history of New England." This book, more like the intricate pattern of a handwoven New England coverlet than a "glimpse," captures the drama of New England's romance with its forests. Sheila Connor takes us on a remarkable odyssey through these forests, from retreating glaciers 12,000 years ago to the bustling cityscapes of this century, weaving together the lives of people and trees in everyday life and changing times.

The reader is enticed into learning the taxonomic characteristics of the region's native trees through stories of people who used them creatively in their lives. From the building of birchbark canoes by the earliest natives to the crafting of great sailing ships and fine walnut clock cases in Colonial times, we learn how the subtleties of specific tree species were matched to needs for practical function and sheer beauty. As technology advanced in the new nation, the role of trees in the creation of new industries--textile weaving, railroads, and paper manufacture--is explored in fascinating detail. The author surely succeeds in her goal of "revealing the evolving interaction between the people and the plants of New England."

This book also serves as a guide to Harvard's Arnold Arboretum, a living natural-history museum in Boston.

Photographs from the Arboretum further enhances the book's engaging narrative and solid scientific foundation. Vivid color plates from early natural histories are exquisitely reproduced, reminding us that science and art are not strangers to one another in the hands of a natural historian.

For a long-time New Englander, the book is an eloquent insight into the landscapes of the region. But this is not a regional book for local readers only. Far more, in the tradition of Rachael Carson, it demonstrates the universal necessity of understanding natural history in cultural context. It is ecological understanding writ large, an important perspective to discover if we are to understand and achieve the new concepts of "ecosystem management."
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Reidel, Carl
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:337
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