Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Casey Trees staff frequently gets asked what tree reference books we recommend. While we are not in the business of recommending books - Oprah Book Club we are not - I can share with you some titles that staff regularly consults. Their worn covers and dogeared pages are a testament to their usefulness.

In no particular order, here are some tree reference books you can peruse at your leisure or add to your wish list.

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses
Author - Michael Dirr
  • Color photographs showing a selection of trees at maturity make this a great book to consult when studying twigs and buds or when selecting a tree for your yard. However, the book size makes it too big to take on a hike.
Here are some suggestions that are easy to stuff into a bag:

Smithsonian Handbooks: Trees

Author - Allen J. Coombes.
  • Trees is divided into broadleaf and conifer, then subdivided into families. For example, oaks and beaches will be found together under Fagaceae. The photos include leaves, fruit, flowers and buds.
National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Trees, Eastern Region.
  • Trees are presented by type of leaf (simple, compound), with flowers and fruit color-keyed.
Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Trees
Authors - George Petrides and Janet Wehr
  • Color plates in the front illustrate buds, fruit, twigs, flowers and leaves. Text is in the rear.
City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington DC
Author - Melanie Choukas-Bradley
  • Descriptions and photos of trees familiar to this area, plus historic and other places to see significant trees. Ms. Choukas-Bradley frequently leads tree tours for Casey Trees.
USDA: Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America.
  • This handy guide is out of print but needs to be brought back. Detailed information about four dozen oaks, with drawings, leaf comparisons and detailed descriptions. Grab it if you can find it.
National Arbor Day Foundation: What Tree Is That.
  • This will allow you to key out a tree based on leaf or needle and buds. Good for young trees, hard to use in a more mature setting where buds are not at eye level.

Want a more substantive book?

The Urban Tree Book: An Uncommon Field Guide for City and Town

Author - Arthur Plotnik
  • Mr. Plotnik follows the alphabet, describing more than 200 urban trees. This is more of a narrative, with a little history or cultural information about trees ranging from tree of heaven to sweet gum to many oaks. A terrific book for browsing.
The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live and Why They Matter
Author - Colin Tudge.
  • A little geology, a lot of botany and an enjoyable read by a research scientist. It will change your perception of what is a native tree.
Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest
Author - Joan Maloof
  • Ms. Maloof lives on the Eastern Shore and writes about native trees we have taken for granted and are losing.

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