Can’t recall the name of that great tree you just saw at the local nursery? Sounds like you could use a handy tree guide. You are in luck! Princeton Field Guides has published a useful duo: Trees of Eastern North America and Trees of Western North America. Both books were written by a trio of authors: Richard Spellenberg, Christopher J. Earle and Gil Nelson. While the emphasis is on trees, a number of shrubs are also included.
These are up-to-date and comprehensive guides – Trees of Eastern North America covers 825 species in 720 pages while Trees of Western North America includes 630 species in 540 pages. The authors have included native species as well as naturalized species – “trees that grow without the aid of human cultivation.” A few prominent street trees and garden trees are covered, as well as some invasive species, such as Chinese Privet and Burning Bush, that have proven that they don’t need the aid of humans. To their credit, the authors point out such problematic plants.
The same layout is used for each book and is easy to follow. Plants are categorized by plant family, including familiar groups such as Pinaceae (Pine Family), Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family), Ericaceae (Heath Family), Cornaceae (Dogwood Family) and so on. This organization gives readers an opportunity to compare related species quite easily.
For each plant, the authors provide a thorough yet succinct description preceded a “quick ID.” In the case of Alternate Leaf Dogwood, the quick ID states: “a shrub or small tree with a distinctively layered, horizontal branching structure, and the only eastern dogwood with alternate rather than opposite leaves.” This is followed by a description of the plant’s size, shape, growth habit, bark, leaves, twigs, flowers, fruit, and flowering and fruiting times. A listing of the plant’s habitat/range is accompanied by a small map for a visual representation.
The wonderful color illustrations of each plant by David More are visually appealing and naturalistic, allowing for easy identification. More’s artwork is beautiful enough to warrant framing.
The introduction sections in both guides offer helpful information on leaf arrangement patterns, parts of leaves, shapes of leaves, surface features of plant parts, etc. The illustrated section on winter twigs of selected trees is especially helpful, as is the illustrated key to selected trees by leaf shape.
Trees of Eastern North America and Trees of Western North America are fine books – useful to plant lovers, seasoned pros and even homeowners looking to plant trees and shrubs. Don’t worry if you already own a few books on trees, no doubt you will find these books the worth investment.
From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!