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Among the largest and oldest trees in the New Zealand forest, tōtara have been central to life in this country for thousands of years. In Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History, Philip Simpson documents that enduring link, explaining the tree's botany and evolution, its role in Māori life and lore, its uses by early European settlers, and its current status in our environment and culture.
Simpson adds that it was also a headline-grabbing tōtara-treetop protest that paved the way for a conservation administration whose mission was not compromised by conflicting development objectives.
He writes: "The forging of cultural identity, the struggle to develop and the struggle to protect have all been rooted in the virtues of the tree we call tōtara."
Philip Simpson is a botanist, and author of Dancing Leaves: The Story of New Zealand's Cabbage Tree, Ti Kōuka (2000), and Pōhutukawa and Rātā: New Zealand's Iron-hearted Trees (2005). He was awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer's Fellowship to work on Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History.
Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History, by Philip Simpson.
Published by Auckland University Press. Hardback, illustrated, 288 pages.