Ladders to Heaven
Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
As we enter figgy pudding season, this niche but brilliant book explores the importance of fig trees. Alongside a fascinating look at their cultural influence, symbolism and history, we see how the now 700-odd varieties of this incredible plant have withstood more than 80 million years of planetary upheaval, how wasps help them bear fruit year round to sustain so many other species and how they could yet play a vital role in repairing forests and limiting climate change.
They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Ladders to Heaven tells their amazing story. Fig trees fed our prehuman ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since. These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa s catastrophic eruption. Egypt s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne. And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope. Ultimately, it s a story about humanity s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.