Venerable Trees Book

Blue ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata, at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate

Venerable Trees  – History, Biology and Conservation in the Bluegrass

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About The Book

When the first settlers arrived in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, they found an astonishing landscape of open woodland grazed by vast herds of bison. Farmers quickly replaced the bison with cattle, sheep, and horses, but left many of the trees to shade their pastures. Today, central Kentucky and central Tennessee still boast one of the largest populations of presettlement trees in the nation, found in both rural and urban areas.

In Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass, Tom Kimmerer showcases the beauty, age, size, and splendor of these ancient trees and the remaining woodland pastures. Documenting the distinctive settlement history that allowed for their preservation, Kimmerer explains the biology of Bluegrass trees and explores the reasons why they are now in danger. He also reveals the dedication and creativity of those fighting to conserve these remarkable three-hundred- to five-hundred-year-old plants—from innovative, conscientious developers who build around them rather than clearing the land to farmers who use lightning rods to protect them from natural disasters.

Featuring more than one hundred color photographs, this beautifully illustrated book offers guidelines for conserving ancient trees worldwide while educating readers about their life cycle. Venerable Trees is an informative call to understand the challenges faced by the companions so deeply rooted in the region’s heritage and a passionate plea for their preservation.



What books are currently on your night stand?
My father’s much-marked Bible (King James Version), which I keep there for companionship and to read; Volume 1 of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” which I enjoy partly for the luxury of reading in no hurry, for I probably will never finish it; also “Venerable Trees,” by Tom Kimmerer, about the surviving trees of the original savannas or woodland pastures of Kentucky and Tennessee. Wendell  Berry in the New York Times

Venerable Trees will fill a valuable niche as Lexington and the surrounding region make decisions about the future of our urban forest. I don’t know of another book like it. — Andy Mead, reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader for 34 years

Kimmerer’s use of historical documents helps the reader to see the significant changes that have occurred since the advent of European descendants into Central Kentucky. His work calls attention to the significance of these trees and the need for greater sensitivity in preserving them. — John Tierney, retired naturalist for the Kentucky State Parks

This is a fascinating book about a unique landscape in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. Trees with stout stems and enormous crowns create scenic woodland pastures grazed by horses and cattle. This book examines the origin and management of this landscape. What part was played by the huge herds of bison that roamed and grazed there before Europeans settled the Bluegrass? After settlement, the bison vanished, along with their favored foods, giant cane and native grasses, but the trees remain. Fire was not the architect of this landscape. The striking similarity of the Bluegrass woodland pastures to those of Europe suggests that both habitats were created by large grazing animals. Experience with the European woodland pastures may help answer the questions raised in this wonderful book. — Frans Vera, author of Grazing Ecology and Forest History