Paperback / softback
August 9, 2019
10 b&w illus., 1 map
8.50 Inches (US)
5.50 Inches (US)
.65 Pounds (US)
$19.95 USD, £15.99 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Witness Tree

Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak

Seasonal changes in nature are among the most readily observable clues to the biological effects of climate change. "It came to me," writes acclaimed environment reporter Lynda Mapes, "You could tell the story of climate change—and more—through a single, beloved, living thing: a tree." Mapes chronicles her yearlong quest to understand a wizened witness to our world: a red oak, over one hundred years old, in the Harvard Forest. A tree that has seen it all, from our changing relationship with nature in our industrialized and digitized lives to the altered clockwork of nature.

Mapes evokes the wonder and joy of forests, and the poetics and botany of trees, living intimately with her oak through four seasons. She dives deeply into the world of self-described "tree geeks" and becomes one herself, exploring her tree from roots to crown. She also offers a clear-eyed assessment of what the tree tells us about climate change, from the heartwood at its core to the photosynthetic cycle deep in its leaves.

Mixing storytelling, tree lore, and cutting-edge science, Mapes offers a new approach to thinking about how we might live together into the far future on a planet we have changed in ways we never intended—and how trees help show us the way.

About the Author

Lynda Mapes is the environmental reporter for the Seattle Times. She researched and wrote Witness Tree while a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT and a Bullard Fellow at the Harvard Forest. Her five books include Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village. She lives in Seattle.


"An unlikely love story about a reporter and a tree. . . . What makes Witness Tree such an irresistible read is Mapes's love of language combined with a great talent at rendering nerdy information readable."—Los Angeles Review of Books

"A meticulously, beautifully layered portrayal of vulnerability and loss, renewal and hope, this extensively researched yet deeply personal book is a timely call to bear witness and to act in an age of climate-change denial."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"The intriguing, and more intimate, Witness Tree . . . portrays trees as 'scribes, diarists, historians.' They are 'among our oldest journalists.' A reporter herself . . . Mapes sets out to tell the story of climate change through one tree. But that is, marvelously, the least of it."—New York Times Book Review

9780295746661 : witness-tree-mapes
Paperback / softback
240 Pages
$19.95 USD

Other Titles by Lynda V. Mapes


Children of the Setting Sun Productions, edited by Darrell Hillaire, Natasha Frey, photographs by Fay "Beau" Garreau, Jr., with contributions by Lynda V. Mapes, Nicole Brown, afterword by Danita Washington
Nov 2021 - University of Washington Press
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Breaking Ground

Lynda V. Mapes, foreword by Frances Charles
Jul 2015 - University of Washington Press
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$99.00 USD - Hardback

Other Titles in SCIENCE / Natural History

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