Trees in Paradise: A California History

Trees in Paradise: A California History

by Jared Farmer

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From roots to canopy, a lush, verdant history of the making of California.

California now has more trees than at any time since the late Pleistocene. This green landscape, however, is not the work of nature. It’s the work of history. In the years after the Gold Rush, American settlers remade the California landscape, harnessing nature to their vision of the good life. Horticulturists, boosters, and civic reformers began to "improve" the bare, brown countryside, planting millions of trees to create groves, wooded suburbs, and landscaped cities. They imported the blue-green eucalypts whose tangy fragrance was thought to cure malaria. They built the lucrative "Orange Empire" on the sweet juice and thick skin of the Washington navel, an industrial fruit. They lined their streets with graceful palms to announce that they were not in the Midwest anymore.

To the north the majestic coastal redwoods inspired awe and invited exploitation. A resource in the state, the durable heartwood of these timeless giants became infrastructure, transformed by the saw teeth of American enterprise. By 1900 timber firms owned the entire redwood forest; by 1950 they had clear-cut almost all of the old-growth trees.

In time California’s new landscape proved to be no paradise: the eucalypts in the Berkeley hills exploded in fire; the orange groves near Riverside froze on cold nights; Los Angeles’s palms harbored rats and dropped heavy fronds on the streets below. Disease, infestation, and development all spelled decline for these nonnative evergreens. In the north, however, a new forest of second-growth redwood took root, nurtured by protective laws and sustainable harvesting. Today there are more California redwoods than there were a century ago.

Rich in character and story, Trees in Paradise is a dazzling narrative that offers an insightful, new perspective on the history of the Golden State and the American West.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393241273
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/21/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 946,289
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Jared Farmer, a Utah native and former Californian, is the author of Trees in Paradise and On Zion’s Mount, a landscape history awarded the prestigious Parkman Prize for literary excellence. He teaches history at Stony Brook University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction xvii

Part 1 Redwoods: The Value of Longevity 1

Chapter 1 Twilight of the Giants

Debut of the Big Tree 7

American Remains 23

Land Going to Waste 31

Consuming the Redwoods 44

Chapter 2 The Perpetual Last Stand

Saving the Redwoods 60

Clean Logging 72

Park Politics 80

Old-Growth Crusade 90

Part 2 Eucalypts: The Taxonomy of Belonging 109

Chapter 3 Immigration and Naturalization Acclimatizing with Blue Gum 115

New Varieties, New Authorities 130

Boom and Bust 138

Sense of Place 155

Chapter 4 Natives, Aliens, and (Bio)diversity

Putting Out Fires 168

Tree Hazards 179

California Native Plants 190

Invasion of the Nonnatives 202

Sense of Place, Again 213

Part 3 Citruses: The Industry of Growth 221

Chapter 5 Orange Revolution

Special Fruit 227

The Citrus Belt 239

Problems of Plenty 249

Tree Workers 257

Managerial Control 266

Chapter 6 Cultural Costs

Laboratories in the Grove 278

To Smudge Or Not to Smudge 291

Subdivide and Uproot 307

Bugs in the System 321

Part 4 Palms: The Ecology of Style 333

Chapter 7 Cosmopolitan Fronds

Domestic Exotica 339

Street Trees and City Boosters 346

Flora of the Stars 367

Chapter 8 Aesthetic Infrastructure

Sunbelt Design 384

Wilted Crowns 398

The Plasticity of Trees 408

Beyond L.A. 417

Epilogue 431

Appendix: Common and Scientific Names of Species 439

Further Reading 445

Acknowledgments 455

Illustration Credits 459

Notes 465

Index 527

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