A new treasure: ‘Trees and How They Grow’ by G Clarke Nuttall

'Trees and How They Grow' bookAt a show last weekend I picked up this gorgeous old book from a second-hand book stall.  Written by Gertrude Clarke Nuttall, it’s called ‘Trees And How They Grow’ and is dated 1913.

Inside are 15 colour plates called ‘autochromes’ and 134 black-and-white photographs.  A total of 24 species of trees are described in detail – among them alder, hornbeam, larch, poplar, horse chestnut, willow, wayfaring-tree – and the natural history is mixed with wonderful legends and folklore.

This book is in fact a natural history specimen in its own right, because someone has collected leaves from the trees and pressed them carefully in the relevant chapters.  These are now alarmingly fragile, especially the sprig of lime which still has little fruits attached.   There are also some old newspaper cuttings about how to control pests in an orchard.

The Hazel

“In blustering gales and gusty sleet the Old Year had given place to the New, winter was in its most dreary aspect, and the branches of the trees stood out in sheer bareness.  Suddenly, one spot by the copse’s side attracted attention, for there, on what was little better than a shrub, the nakedness of the branches was decked by dancing tassels of gold, and into the sodden, rain-swept landscape there came a hint of gaiety, a whisper of spring.  It was just a group of two or three Hazel trees, first of all Nature to bring the welcome of flowers to the new-born year.”

What a source of delight this will be.   I’ll share some more snippets in my future posts about trees!



  1. Nice find, Jo! 😊

  2. What a lovely discovery! One doesn’t find books like that anymore. Looking forward to future posts. 😊

  3. Oh you lucky girl, you. I look forward to more extracts.

  4. That really is a treasure trove. If only the contents could speak. Who pressed the flowers and twigs, who referred to the book and included newspaper cuttings so all the information was in one place? I imagine the pages are softened and the book has that wonderful aged smell that old books get. Enjoy!!!

    • Very true, Lyn. It does have a musty ‘old book’ smell. I would love to know who pressed those leaves – there’s no date on the newspaper cuttings but I’d say they were no later than the 1960s, and after that I would say the book has been closed and no one has used it. I’d like to think of a child being taken around the woods by his or her grandfather, taking a leaf from the trees to learn more about them. It certainly seemed to jump off the shelf at me, if you know what I mean!

      • I thought of a child being encouraged by a loving adult too. I do know what you mean about books finding just the right person. I’ll look forward to reading more snippets as you post them.

  5. christinelaennec says:

    Oh that is a wonderful find, in more ways than one. Thanks for sharing – I love the hazel quote and I look forwards to more. Do you know much about Gertrude Clarke Nuttall?

    • I know, Christine, I had to share this, it’s so lovely. I had never heard of the author and all I found after a Google search was that she was a British botanist, born in 1868, and was apparently one of the first women to take a BSc degree from a British university – but it’s not known which one. She also wrote a book on wild flowers. I might keep an eye open for that! 🙂

  6. What a wonderful find, I’m very envious 🙂

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