Trained in biochemistry but also a vocal advocate of aboriginal plant use, Diana Beresford-Kroeger is that rare person who bridges the divide between science and myth. Her new book catalogs the chemical lives of trees, describes their indirect and direct medicinal properties and serves as a call-to-arms to protect our rapidly dwindling forests. Each of the brief chapters (or “essays”) covers a different theme, from how animals have instinctually used plants as medicine to the ways that weather and disease can change the chemistry of a tree.
While Beresford-Kroeger clearly posses a wide-ranging knowledge of the hidden lives of plants, the book is hampered by a perplexing writing style that fails to do the subject justice. The book is full of intriguing concepts left unexplored or unsubstantiated, strings of abrupt sentences and awkward cloying sayings (“Our broken forest is in our hearts and in our children’s tears.”). This is disappointing because her general message: that trees support our fragile existence in complex ways we can’t begin to fathom, needs so desperately to be heard.