Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood

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9780966921748: Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood
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Discovered Alive tells the remarkable story of the dawn redwood tree (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). In 1941, a Chinese forester chanced upon an unknown type of conifer growing in central China. A Berkeley paleobotanist traveled with a S.F. Chronicle newspaper reporter to view this living tree, which had been considered extinct for 20 million years. Fifty years after their expedition, the author retraced the steps of these two scientists to the hinterlands of China to learn what had become of the trees that the men had risked so much to see. Along the way, the reader is treated to descriptions of rural China, stories of other venerable trees, extraordinary tales of dedicated Asian plant collectors, and even musings on the serendipity of history itself. Included are 36 photographs and illustrations, a bibliography, and an index.

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From the Author:

I feel lucky to have been drawn into the fascinating world of the dawn redwood and luckier still for the oportunity to write about it. History is serendipitous. When dawn redwoods were discovered alive in a remote area of central China, they were on the brink of extinction even there. Imagine. After more than 100 million years on the planet, these trees could have completely disappeared without notice. Humans would not have had an inkling of what had been lost. Instead, by chance, an unusual tree was noted by a Chinese forester. Additional expeditions took place which allowed needles and cones to be collected and sent to professors in Nanjing and Beijing. Remarkably, the equation of the living trees with fossils that had been found throughout the northern hemisphere was recognized. A Berkeley paleobotanist resolved to travel to China. He could have died during the hazardous trek. Fortunately, he survived, and he took it upon himself to return to Nanjing to meet with top government leaders to advocate preservation of the tree. The high officials could have ignored him, and the inexperienced, freshly-hatched Communist regime could have abandoned all efforts to preserve the native trees. Instead, we are all lucky that this nisus of conservation occurred. Throughout my subsequent travels, I have discovered worlds that I never knew existed. I have made connections with people and places that have enriched my life. In Discovered Alive, I have documented many of these little-known stories. The journey continues. On a daily basis, I receive correspondence from the vast network of people across China and America whose lives have been touched by the dawn redwood. Buy the book on Amazon.com and join the Metasequoia circle.

About the Author:

William Gittlen is a Berkeley-based emergency physician who travels the world in search of natural wonders. He is one of the foremost authorities on the history of Metasequoia glyptostroboides. His article, "Reunion with a Chinese Redwood," appeared in the fall issue of California Wild, the magazine of the California Academy of Sciences.

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