In South Africa's coastal grasslands, to explore a forest is to walk along its canopy—indeed, it's the only way to observe an extraordinary group of so-called underground trees, where only the uppermost leaves and branches are visible. Tucked away and protected from so many environmental threats, they underground forests are considered all but immortal, with estimated ages of 13,000 years or more.
We've all seen neat tree houses, but did you know that there's a tree church? In France, the Chêne Chappelle (Chapel Oak) is 800 years old, houses two tiny chapels in its hollow trunk, and was said to have been visited by William the Conqueror himself.
A desert plant, the Welwitschia mirabilis is beloved among botanists who seek the very old and the very strange. It's a living fossil that survives in the desert, neither a typical succulent or a cactus, and neither a shrub nor a bush. It has been named a dwarf tree, and a director of the Royal Botanic Gardens once described it as "the most wonderful plant ever brought to this country, and the very ugliest."
Matt Ritter, the author of A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us, and a botany professor, talks about the difference between the cultivated and invasive trees, which trees are taking over California, and why poor neighborhoods seem to have fewer types of trees.
Santa Barbara's Moreton Bay fig tree is a legend. It is the largest in the country—the tree's circumference is 42 feet, its height is twice that, and the canopy spans almost 200 feet—in fact, it even has its own address.
Books made from trees? Yes, and these are no ordinary volumes: Bound in the bark of their respective tree, covered with moses and lichens, and filled with pages fabricated from the tree's leaves, these book are a very literal representation of their subjects.
In 2008, a rare and unusual palm was discovered in remote Madagascar. Hailed as the most important new species of its kind, the tree made headline news—not for its notable survival, but for its spectacular demise. If the Tahina spectabilis had an epitaph, it would read "The gigantic palm that flowered itself to death."