celebrating 16 years online 1998-2014
Quotations about Trees
Welcome to my page of quotations about trees, man’s brethren in nature as they are called. I’ve no idea why “advocates for the preservation of woodlands” (a.k.a.
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~Nelson Henderson
No town can fail of beauty, though its walks were gutters and its houses hovels, if venerable trees make magnificent colonnades along its streets. ~Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs, 1887
Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. ~Bill Vaughn
If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today. ~Stephen Girard
Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in their way. ~William Blake
Trees outstrip most people in the extent and depth of their work for the public good. ~Sara Ebenreck, American Forests
Why are there trees I never walk under
But large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1892
The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what “the story of the trees” would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand. ~Author Unknown, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren, 1938
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone...
~Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa
There are rich counsels in the trees. ~Herbert P. Horne
God in the whizzing of a pleasant wind
Shall march upon the tops of mulberry trees.
~George Peele, David and Fair Bathsabe, 1599
Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees. ~Author Unknown
The trees are whispering to me, reminding me of my roots, and my reach... shhhhhh... can you hear them? Selflessly sharing their subtle song. ~Jeb Dickerson, www.howtomatter.com
The best part of happiness is the pines. ~Terri Guillemets
Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Proverb
To heal mine aching moods,
Give me God’s virgin woods.
Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total. ~Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning
In the storm, like a prophet o’ermaddened,
Thou singest and tossest thy branches;
Thy heart with the terror is gladdened,
Thou forebodest the dread avalanches....
In the calm thou o’erstretchest the valleys
With thine arms, as if blessings imploring,
Like an old king led forth from his palace,
When his people to battle are pouring...
~James Russell Lowell, “To A Pine-Tree”
Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world. ~John Muir
But these trees are derelicts—throwing out a wisp of foliage here and there, a truce to death, with each returning spring. ~Julia Ellen Rogers, “The Big Tree and the Redwood,” The Tree Book: A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Trees of North America and to their Uses and Cultivation, 1905
If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. ~Hal Borland
It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted. ~Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Arbor Day Message
Oaks are the true conservatives;
They hold old leaves till summer gives
A green exchange.
~Roy Helton, Come Back to Earth
A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense. ~American Proverb
...Long, sparkling aisles of steel-stemmed trees
Bending to counterfeit a breeze...
~James Russell Lowell
The bark of the banished trees is clawed and scratched by furry apple-thieves, and the boughs bent and broken so that they fall about your shoulders if you stand under them. Apple-trees like to cuddle, and it must soothe their loneliness to have a woman’s hand touch their torn and wounded skin, and a woman’s eyes look up into their green souls. ~Margaret Troili, “Woods of Mendocino,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, June 1908
[T]he bees will buzz you a welcome from the hives at the end, and then the trees will stoop down about you, and you can look up into a green sky set with constellations of apples. ~Margaret Troili, “Woods of Mendocino,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, June 1908
Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other’s company. Only a few love to be alone. ~Jens Jensen, Siftings, 1939
Exhalation of moss, mycelium, black mould; wafted savor of a thousand earthly growths, damp, clinging, redolent; aroma of mighty roots, of invisible spawn and seed—all the vast stirring of the earth’s desire. ~Virginia Garland, “The Rain,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
Newspapers: dead trees with information smeared on them. ~Horizon, “Electronic Frontier”
As the spring comes on, and the densening outlines of the elm give daily a new design for a Grecian urn, — its hue, first brown with blossoms, then emerald with leaves, — we appreciate the vanishing beauty of the bare boughs. In our favored temperate zone, the trees denude themselves each year, like the goddesses before Paris, that we may see which unadorned loveliness is the fairest. ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "April Days," 1861
They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers. ~James G. Watt, quoted in Newsweek, 1982 March 8th
The ancient tea mountains bathed in the setting sunshine.
The old tea trees stretching out their ancient branches
As if turning their nose to the human world and recalling antiquity.
~Yang Jiang Ming
Only yonder magnificent pine-tree... holds her unchanging beauty throughout the year, like her half-brother, the ocean, whose voice she shares; and only marks the flowing of her annual tide of life by the new verdure that yearly submerges all trace of last year's ebb. ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "April Days," 1861
Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. ~Henry David Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” The Maine Woods, 1848
A tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its Tormentor. ~George William Curtis
Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho
I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Will urban sprawl spread so far that most people lose all touch with nature? Will the day come when the only bird a typical American child ever sees is a canary in a pet shop window? When the only wild animal he knows is a rat — glimpsed on a night drive through some city slum? When the only tree he touches is the cleverly fabricated plastic evergreen that shades his gifts on Christmas morning? ~Frank N. Ikard, North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Houston, March 1968
Maybe trees don't like to be hugged. ~Author Unknown
You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964
Plants are the young of the world, vessels of health and vigor; but they grope ever upward towards consciousness; the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I always feel at home where the sugar maple grows.... glorious in autumn, a fountain of coolness in summer, sugar in its veins, gold in its foliage, warmth in its fibers, and health in it the year round. ~John Burroughs
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
~Joyce Kilmer, “Trees,” 1914
Climb a tree — it gets you closer to heaven. ~Anonymous
We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them. We say we love trees, yet we cut them down. And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved. ~Author Unknown
Save a tree. Eat a beaver. ~Author Unknown
Bread and butter, devoid of charm in the drawing-room, is ambrosia eating under a tree. ~Elizabeth Russell
As the poet said, “only God can make a tree” — probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on. ~Woody Allen
Giant Sequoia & Redwood Quotes
This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life’s proper goal.
To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, O traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.
~Joseph B. Strauss, from “The Redwoods,” 1932
But more impressive than the facts and figures as to height, width, age, etc., are the entrancing beauty and tranquility that pervade the forest, the feelings of peace, awe and reverence that it inspires. ~George McDonald, Dollarwise Guide to California and Las Vegas, 1983, about Muir Woods redwood forest in California
“It’s tacky to go to a drive-thru redwood,” one of the women said....
And there It is... with the gaping wound in the middle.... I feel a serious reluctance to go through with it, but what with the RVs and the motorcycles parked every which way, I can’t figure how else to get out.... I careen through the tree, ashamed to meet it this way, as if it were a being sentient enough to be humiliated, not below us on the Great Chain after all, those of us violating its great gutted bowel.
Wrong, I mutter, trying to erase the moment, unsee this huge scabbed and humiliated elephant in its dirty cage at a bad zoo. I want to un-be myself, ever ready with my endless curiosity and my notebook where—damn it—I pause long enough to get the poem.
~Patricia Hampl, Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life, 1992 [The poem Hampl refers to is Strauss’ “The Redwoods” quoted above, on a plaque. And sister, I felt the same way driving through that poor tree.
Having made these noble trees an especial study during the past year, I approach them always, I may say, with reverence. As giants and patriarchs of the forest they stand alone. Nowhere throughout the world can be found living trees that are more majestic and inspiring.... It is a pleasure to linger in the redwoods to contemplate their greatness.... The trees are grand without being oppressive; noble but not arrogant; lords of the soil that do not impoverish the land. ~F.H. Clark, “Forestry; Redwoods,” Annual Report of the State Board of Horticulture of the State of California, for 1891
We seek their companionship with quiet satisfaction; for, in striking contrast with the heavy shade and gloomy depths of our great pine forests, the shadows in the densest growth of redwoods are made soft and semi-luminous by rays of sunlight piercing the feathery foliage, glistening through the pillared glades, illuminating the warm brown and somber gray trunks of these grand trees, and “awakening to more vivid tints of green the swaying branches sweeping the clear blue sky.” And this commingling of light and shade gives to daylight in the redwoods a peculiar softness in keeping with the stillness of the scene. ~F.H. Clark, “Forestry; Redwoods,” Annual Report of the State Board of Horticulture of the State of California, for 1891 [Dear Reader: I couldn’t determine the author or passage being quoted here by Clark. If you know, please do let me know. I’ll send you a big virtual hug in appreciation!
Their preservation depends upon a sentiment. As sentiment never yet annihilated a paying industry, we cannot hope to stay, wholly, the ax and saw of the lumberman. But popular opinion, combined with action, if directed intelligently towards the setting apart of some one section of the noble redwood forests... will, I believe, save for our present delight and for that of the generations who come after us, at least one grand forest of the Sequoia sempervirens such as the world cannot show elsewhere, such as a thousand years cannot reproduce. ~F.H. Clark, “Forestry; Redwoods,” Annual Report of the State Board of Horticulture of the State of California, for 1891
After this experience he might be translated mystically to another plane of existence, to another dimension, just as the redwoods seem to be out of time and out of our ordinary thinking. The experience might even drive him mad.... The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
They carry their own light and shade. The vainest, most slap-happy and irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.... One feels the need to bow to unquestioned sovereigns. There’s a cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The trees rise straight up to zenith; there is no horizon.... [T]he green fernlike foliage so far up strains the sunlight to a green gold and distributes it in shafts or rather in stripes of light and shade. To me there’s a remote and cloistered feeling here. One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something—what? ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
[T]hese are the last remaining members of a race that flourished over four continents as far back in geologic time as the upper Jurassic period. Fossils of these ancients have been found dating from the Cretaceous era while in the Eocene and Miocene they were spread over England and Europe and America. And then the glaciers moved down and wiped the Titans out beyond recovery. And only these few are left—a stunning memory of what the world was like once long ago. Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
The smell of the sea hugged the fog in the redwood trees,
All cool and dank, dimly lit and rank with green,
And in shadowed limbs the Stellar jays jabbered free,
And me, standing silently, an alien in this enchanted scene...
~Michael P. Garofalo, from “The Decaying Tree,” 2012, Meetings with Master Chang San-Feng
The oldest living things upon the earth are the big trees on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California. Since the first white man saw them, about seventy years ago, historians have grown old and died, quarreling as to whether John Bidwell or a hunter named A.T. Dowd was that man, and scientists have wrangled themselves into their graves without finally deciding whether the species should be called Sequoia gigantea or Sequoia Washingtoniana; but some of these trees were five hundred years old when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt — and they are green and growing still. In the struggle for existence, they and man have proved themselves the fittest to survive, but since the two have met, man threatens to extinguish these noblest living ornaments of nature, the most impressive of all monuments to the tenacity of organic life. Some thousands only of these trees now exist as reminders of the age when forests of them were abroad in Europe and America. Most of these few are privately owned; more than half are owned by lumber companies; and saw-mills are nibbling at the edges of the finest groves. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
The other great tree of California is the Sequoia sempervirens, or the redwood, as it is invariably called. As the big tree is found only on the western slope of the Coast Range, and it thrives directly in proportion as it gets the ocean fogs from the Pacific. It is not so old a tree, nor so thick, as the gigantea, but it is as tall.... Though less majestic than the big tree, it is more gracefully beautiful.... It makes one of the densest of all forests, almost completely shading the ground, in spite of which it is usually the home of a thick and beautiful undergrowth of ferns and flowering shrubs. Probably no American forest is so picturesque as the redwood. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
No nobler monuments of our love for beauty can be erected than to preserve these oldest and biggest trees in the world and these tallest trees in America. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
Sweet wet balm of bough and branch.... Here is a chestnut sister, and there a sequoia brother. ~Virginia Garland, “The Rain,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
My dad once gave me a few words of wisdom which I’ve always tried to live by. He said, “Son, never throw a punch at a redwood.” ~Magnum, P.I.
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky,
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the Redwood forest dense....
[T]he wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to join the refrain;
But in my soul I plainly heard.
Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs—out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time—chant, not of the past only, but of the future...
~Walt Whitman, from “Song of the Redwood-Tree,” c.1874
No other tree combines such massiveness of trunk with such height.... Spruces and pines of majestic port standing around look like saplings.... They look up, but the Sequoias look—not down but out, indifferent to all that is transpiring below them. They see only the limitless reaches of the eternal sky... ~Julia Ellen Rogers, “The Big Tree and the Redwood,” The Tree Book: A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Trees of North America and to their Uses and Cultivation, 1905
...mystery and charm unique among living works of creation... ~Author unknown [This was reportedly said to Grant, Osborn, and Merriam, describing the northern California redwoods that prompted their 1917 “historic camping trip” leading to preservation of some remaining old-growth forest areas. Go tree-huggers!
There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred. ~Theodore Roosevelt
The road is broad, for a wood-road, and it first lays itself over a slight knoll, from which the valley shrinks into a picture.... It is green and soft gold; gently blurred, huddling alders by the river; straight, severe pines and redwoods on the ridges.
Then the road takes the steepest slope, and the trees begin to stand in front of the valley-picture, and to step down about you. The Mesquite Field ridge absorbs all your energies. There are black stumps of trees, fallen sooty trunks around which the gracious fern has grouped its friendly brethren. But higher on the ridge are trees yet untouched, rising in their proud, silent way.
The ocean is marking the line of its domain far off in a creamy blur. To it falls a long sea-slope, fortified rearward by ridge after ridge, pressing on with bayonets of pine and redwood.... It is fine and airy up here, above the sea, and yet within high reach of its steady thunder, borne up on a breeze sent landward. ~Margaret Troili, “Woods of Mendocino,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, June 1908
What a generous wood! what a glorious and all-seeing Providence, to provide so liberally for the inhabitants of the Sunset Land! ~W.A. Pryal, “Lumber for Hives: Some Interesting Data on the Way Lumber is being Cut and Exported from this Country; the Giant Trees; California Redwood,” Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904 August 1st
There may be “sermons in stones and music in running brooks,” but grand indeed is the inspiration to be had as we stand in awe and view the majestic trees of California.... The vastness of these forests can not be realized until one has been within the silent and cathedral-like expanse they form. ~W.A. Pryal, “Lumber for Hives: Some Interesting Data on the Way Lumber is being Cut and Exported from this Country; the Giant Trees; California Redwood,” Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904 August 1st [quoting Shakespeare
The Sequoias stand listening, watching, searching the sky, looking far off, over the hills, up and down the coast.... In this wild night the redwoods are slipping off their last burned shreds of autumn color, throwing dead branch and needled leaf to the wind; down every bough venturing forth tips of tender green, dreaming in the throbbing dark of a million, minute, kernel blooms.... The wild wet trees stretch out their arms to me. ~Virginia Garland, “The Rain,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
California’s redwood forests are famous for being home to the tallest living things on the planet, but there’s much more to these extraordinary woodlands than the size of the trees. At their best, redwood forests are suffused with a sense of openness and serenity. Sun-dappled, elegantly fluted tree trunks shoot straight as an arrow into the sky, while below are burbling streams, spectacular fallen trunks, and a lush accumulation of ferns, sorrel, moss, and lichen. ~David Baselt, RedwoodHikes.com
The most beautiful antiques are not found in stores. ~WishHunt.com
To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
A redwood tree sighs, tall, broad, contented. But the aspen tree has itchy feet—as winds blow, it bends, yearning to be a traveling man. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
The scent of rain, as an ancient redwood tree points to the first evening star. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Easy places in which to lose your mind: bakeries, bookstores, redwood forests, wild gardens. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Through the branches of a giant redwood tree already two thousand years old floats a magnificent butterfly, whose life is only two weeks. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Indigo shadows encourage tantalizing gossip in an orchard, while a tall redwood throws poems on the forest floor. The nightlife of trees. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
He stood in stillness in an ancient grove of redwood trees, waiting for a wandering poem to land on him. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
There’s a beach whose waves lap near an ancient grove of redwoods—during a full moon, it throws up wishing shells. Let them lie, he told me. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
[W]hat have we done with our forests? Chopped them, and burned them, and wasted them; and now almost the last of the great stands of timber are here on the Pacific slope. We are in the center of the best of them. Probably nowhere on earth does there exist a forest to compare in continuous grandeur and unqualified beauty with the Redwoods that are found along the Eel River and to the north. ~Madison Grant, “Preserve An America Worth Fighting For,” 1921 August 6th address at the dedication of Bolling Memorial Grove in Humboldt County, California
Death is a low chemical trick played on everybody except sequoia trees. ~J.J. Furnas
Do behold the king in his glory, King Sequoia. Behold! Behold! seems all I can say.... Well may I fast, not from bread but from business, bookmaking, duty doing & other trifles.... I’m in the woods woods woods, & they are in mee-ee-ee.... I wish I were wilder & so bless Sequoia I will be. ~John Muir, from a letter to Jeanne C. Carr, circa autumn 1870, © 1984 Muir-Hanna Trust, University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections
You are yourself a Sequoia.... Stop and get acquainted with your big brethren. ~John Muir to Ralph Waldo Emerson, May 1871
He is likely to remain the one historian of the Sierra; he imported into his view the imagination of the poet and the reverence of the worshipper.... William Kent, during Muir’s life, paid him a rare tribute in giving to the nation a park of redwoods with the understanding that it should be named Muir Woods. But the nation owes him more. His work was not sectional but for the whole people, for he was the real father of the forest reservations of America. ~Robert Underwood Johnson, about John Muir
Thanks to Michael P. Garofalo of The Spirit of Gardening
for sharing a few of these wonderful quotes with me!