Extract from Tree Lore

By Richard St. Barbe Baker

The old Maoris were friends of the forest, and whenever they wanted to cut down a tree they used to ask it’s permission first, and then cover up the stump with foliage so as to protect the inlying spirit. Throughout the greatest part of the island, the Children of Tane, the Lord of the Forest, have disappeared.

Thus deserts have been formed in the world over, and the process still goes on. We must stop this mad ruin, or we shall be confronted with a timber famine; and our beautiful world will become a waste.


It is a fact that trees are always giving out more than they take. They are healthful, exhilarating, especially the wild ones. In this much-vaunted civilisation in which we now live, Man is too often inclined to think that the Infinite made the world in the rough and left it altogether for him to improve. Are we really doing this in destroying the natural forests, as well as the birds that go with them?


The late professor Sir J. Arthur Thomson, that great naturalist, in his Foreword to my book, The Brotherhood of the Trees wrote: “For it is not merely that the world is bettered by saving, replacing and multiplying trees, it is that an aim of this kind becomes an impulse towards developing a mood and an outlook which will increasingly feel it to be natural to think for the future, for other people for generations yet unborn. Planting a tree is a symbol of a looking-forward kind of action – looking forward, yet not too distantly.”


Trees hold the rains as they fall, and condense the fogs precipitating their moisture. When the trees are gone, rainwater rushes down the hollows and valleys, cutting deep watercourses which carry off the water before it can saturate the ground. The mists, no longer held in the foliage, drift away without depositing moisture. The rushing stream carries in its flood the soil and fertile humus. The springs are not fed, because rain has not had time to percolate down to their level. Streams and rills become torrents during the wet season and barren ravines in the dry.

Published in Britain’s Wonderland of Nature, edited by John R. Crossland and J. M. Parrish. Odhams Press Ltd. (1934).

Photos by Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, taken at Cadair Idris, Wales (2009).

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