“I dig old books.” ™
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.
Clouds at noon occupying about half the sky gave half an hour of heavy rain to wash one of the cleanest landscapes in the world. How well it is washed!... How fresh the woods are and calm after the last films of clouds have been wiped from the sky! A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fibre thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself. ~John Muir, 1869 July 24th
A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible. ~Welsh Proverb
For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. ~Martin Luther
There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~Minnie Aumonier
Down at the end of a winding path
Is a group of evergreen trees,
Pine and hemlock, and spruce and fir,
With their resinous fragrances;
And truest picture of calm content
That mortal ever saw...
~Elizabeth Anne Chase Akers Allen, "My Air–castle," The Sunset–song and other Verses, 1902
It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. ~Wilson Flagg
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~William Shakespeare
We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true; but our own little comes and goes are only little more than tree-wavings—many of them not so much. ~John Muir, "A Wind Storm in the Forests of the Yuba," Scribner's Monthly, November 1878
The girl was very lovely. She smelled deliciously of pine needles. ~Maud Casey, The Man Who Walked Away, 2014
The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert
Alone with myself
The trees bend to caress me
The shade hugs my heart.
Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk? ~Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982
It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
There is something about a forest that compels introspection... ~Eloise J. Roorbach, "The Big Basin," Overland Monthly, October 1907
He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
~Lucy Larcom, “Plant a Tree”
Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does. ~George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists, 1903
In the springtime, leaves unfolding,
Growing, growing one by one,
In the summer, always giving
Cool, green shade to every one;
In the autumn, tall and stately,
Dressed in yellow, red and brown,
In the winter, sleeping, sleeping,
While the snow comes softly down...
~Charlotte Lay Dewey, "A Song of the Trees," in Kindergarten Review (Springfield, Mass.), October 1906
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time. ~John Lubbock, “Recreation,” The Use of Life, 1894
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
To the great tree-loving fraternity we belong. We love trees with universal and unfeigned love, and all things that do grow under them or around them — the whole leaf and root tribe. ~Henry Ward Beecher
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods -
"Who are you talking to?" I asked a child who was standing alone in the park. "The trees. They like it." ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now. ~Chinese proverb
A snowflake fell silent onto a red maple leaf, then another and another fell and joined it, until soon all the leaves on the ground were frosted with snow. A whisper of November wind shivered the leaves yet clinging to the chestnut tree. It rustled through the bare limbs, reminding, "It's time… It's time…" ~Ethel Pochocki (1925–2010), "Little-Good-for-Nothing," The Attic Mice, 1990 [a little altered
I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them. ~James Russell Lowell
Sit still with me in the shade of these green trees, which have no weightier thought than the withering of their leaves when autumn arrives, or the stretching of their many stiff fingers into the cold sky of the passing winter. ~Fernando Pessoa
The cracked and hairy pineapple hide of an old palm tree growing next to the sidewalk captures Gordon's attention. He looks up, marveling at its longevity. His grandfather probably passed by that very tree fifty years ago. In its bird-spattered crown, Gordon hears a mourning dove's sorrowful burble blending with the dwindling patter of rain on this otherwise churchyard still day. ~Derek Swannson, Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg, 2007
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~Nelson Henderson
You see the tree that sweeps my window-pane?
All the long winter-time it moans and grieves;
In the bleak nights I hear its boughs complain,
Praying for gracious sunshine and warm rain,
And its withheld inheritance of leaves.
But what avails it? Though the sad tree wears
Its heart out with its grief, what shall it gain?
Do you believe the tardy summer cares
For all its wild rebukes and passionate prayers,
Or that the sun shines warmer for its pain?
~Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (1832–1911), "Time," c.1866
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
Year on year
The lovely trees have grown more dear.
~V.O. Wallingford (b.1876), "The Cottonwood Trees"
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, @JebDickerson
The best part of happiness is the pines. ~Terri Guillemets, "Thunder in the mountains," 1986
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”
We can learn a lot from trees: they're always grounded but never stop reaching heavenward. ~Terri Guillemets, "Humans & nature," 2002
Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life. ~John Muir [For quite some time I wasn’t sure if this was an actual Muir quotation, but fortunately Dan Styer has worked hard to track it down. Read about it here: oberlin.edu/physics/dstyer/Muir/QuotableJohnMuir.html. Thanks, Dan!
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
Wind tries to show Tree how to run wild.
Tree: "I cannot leave this place."
Wind: "Then let's dance."
I hugged a tree today — the weeping willow looked like it really needed one. ~Patrick McDonnell, "Shtinky's Dear Diary," Mutts, @muttscomics, Instagram post, 2020
That a slender wooden tree twig can give birth to luscious pears, apples, peaches remains an extraordinary feat. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2012 January 17th tweet, professorsunwolf.com
A palo verde
is sunlit laughter
when Spring walks
A pepper tree is
a lace mantilla
through which the
has gypsy breeding
that laughs at wind and rain;
Gnarled sycamores sing
where canyons are deep,
a peace-filled, calm refrain…
But high on mountains,
the pines stand praying,
their voices whisper low
as they chant together
an ageless measure,
"Reach out and up, and grow!"
~Lorraine Babbitt, "Tree Portraits," in Arizona Highways, September 1961
If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. ~Hal Borland
All freezes again —
among the pines, winds whispering
~Riei, 1794, in Yoel Hoffmann, Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, 1986
I passed by the pitch pine that was struck by lightning, and was impressed with awe on looking up and seeing that broad, distinct, spiral mark, more distinct even than when made eight years ago, as one might groove a walking stick,… mark where a terrific and resistless bolt came down from heaven, out of the harmless sky. It seemed a sacred spot. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1853 December 26th [a little altered
Long-standing hearts of nature
Absorbers of human angst
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
the woods, the quietude —
her refuge, her poetry, her home
~Terri Guillemets, "Forest bliss," 2019, blackout poetry created from Louise Penny, Still Life, 2005, pages 168–169
I knew how the trees would change, the air grow misted and chill;
I felt the gold twilight under the trees, the smell of earth-mould and crushed acorns,
and last of all, I knew, the leaves of the fig-tree would turn gold and fall slowly, one by one,
(always the falling of the fig-leaves is heavy with infinite melancholy—)
then one day a great gale would come thundering through the trees,
strip the last leaves from the poplars, and leave the landscape bare.
~Dallas Kenmare Browne Kelsey (c.1905–1970)
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
I passed through trees. Inside their wooden samurai armor they are geisha beauties, each one a 'person-of-the-art,' limbs dancing, arranging flowers, carrying the wind's music, the calligraphy of their roots pure poetry, rhyming earth and berth. ~A.A. Attanasio, "Fractal Blood Soul," 2007
Standing in silent starlight,
the wind carries a crimson leaf to my feet.
Love letter from a nearby tree.
~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Finland is officially the world’s happiest country. It is also 75
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”
They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers. ~James G. Watt, quoted in Newsweek, 1982 March 8th
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
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
Farther down the mountain the spruce grow full and strong, but the bristlecone pine grow only here at timberline and in a few scattered groves downslope where conditions approximate those at the heights. Ice-grained winter winds have scoured them of bark and twisted their burly trunks like hawsers. Their frayed and brambled limbs, upstretched in frozen homage to the sky, have been foreshortened by centuries of brief summers. Their roots press with sullen desperation into the shivered stone, and by the looks of them they have only the most tenuous grip on life. Yet the bristlecone pine is the oldest living thing on earth. ~David W. Toll, "Bristlecone to Saguaro: The Story of Arizona's Trees and Forests from Timberline to Desert Floor," Arizona Highways, January 1971
Forest air is magical. ~Terri Guillemets
[They] lived in an enchanting forest lodge... the deodar forest rose up protectively on three sides of it, dwarfing and sheltering it, while its front windows faced the level sweep of the valley with its orchards and walnut groves and the forests that swept up again on the far side. The air smelled deliciously of pine-needles, herbs and woodsmoke, of the little yellow climbing roses that grow wild in the Himalayas... ~M. M. Kaye, Golden Afternoon, 1997
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
The beauty of the forest is extraordinary — but ‘beauty’ is too simple a word, for being here is not just an aesthetic experience, but one steeped with mystery, with awe.... My father once told me that the very word ‘paradise’ meant garden.... But gardens, Eden or Kew, are not the right metaphors here, for the primeval has nothing to do with the human, but has to do with the ancient, the aboriginal, the beginning of all things. The primeval, the sublime, are much better words here — for they indicate realms remote from the moral or the human, realms which force us to gaze into immense vistas of space and time, where the beginnings and originations of all things lie hidden. Now, as I wandered in the cycad forest on Rota, it seemed as if my senses were actually enlarging, as if a new sense, a time sense, was opening within me, something which might allow me to appreciate millennia or aeons as directly as I had experienced seconds or minutes.... Standing here in the jungle, I feel part of a larger, calmer identity; I feel a profound sense of being at home, a sort of companionship with the earth. ~Oliver Sacks, The Island of the Colour-blind and Cycad Island, 1996 (Thanks, Dan!)
It seems natural to liken venerable trees to grand old men. It is something to have lived through storms that try one so terribly, but only succeed in giving greater powers. Even the scars of a tree add dignity, and the loss here and there of a limb only makes for more character... ~Eloise J. Roorbach, "The Big Basin," Overland Monthly, October 1907
A bare tree stands
with roots on both ends
in December days.
~Kiran Bantawa, "Bare Trees"
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
Thanks to Michael P. Garofalo of gardendigest.com for sharing a few of these wonderful quotes with me!