Can we really help the trees? was written by Katie Daynes in close collaboration with Dr Manuel Luján, a plant taxonomist at Kew Gardens. Here, Katie quizzes Manuel about what trees mean to him, and how he thinks children can get involved.
Please can you start by telling us a bit about your job. What’s a plant taxonomist and what do you do all day?
Taxonomy is the science of classifying (investigating and sorting things), so as a plant taxonomist I work on classifying plants, in particular tropical plants. I regularly travel to tropical countries to find out how many different plant species there are, where they grow, and how we can take care of them.
What has been your biggest discovery so far?
Finding new plants that most people did not know exist. This is called new species description. So far, I have described five new species of tropical plants.
Which tree species is your favourite, and why?
The species Ceiba, also known as the kapok tree. I like them because they can grow to be one of the largest trees in a tropical forest. They produce seeds that are covered with white fibres that are so soft that people can use them to fill pillows, mattresses, and even teddy bears.
What have you enjoyed most about advising on this book?
Imagining that many children around the world will read the book and receive the message that trees are important. It does not matter where you live, if you read this book, you will learn that trees are important and need to be protected.
In a nutshell, why are trees so important?
Trees make planet Earth liveable. They produce food, generate oxygen, absorb carbon, retain soil and provide shade and shelter for many animals. All very important things to sustain life on earth.
Do you really think children can help the trees?
Yes. I believe children are the BEST people to help the trees. They have their whole lives ahead of them and plenty of opportunities to help. They just have to be ready.
What’s the main thing we should all be doing to make a difference?
I would say that the most important thing to do is to pay attention to the trees around you, be aware of them, take a moment to look at them closely. When you become familiar with something, you start caring about it, and when you care about something you will protect it.