Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees, Second Edition by David More and John White: A review

First and foremost, this is a beautiful book. It features over 5,000 meticulous illustrations, by master botanical artist David More, of the nearly 2,000 species of trees found in the forests, landscapes, and gardens of North America and Europe. 

In addition to the precise paintings which illustrate the important details of trees - things like leaves, needles, bark, blossoms, fruits, nuts, and cones - More's paintings are accompanied by informative text from John White, a former research dendrologist at the UK's Forestry Commission. This is the book's second edition, the first published in 2002 and this one just out in June of this year. 

It is a big book, weighing in at over five pounds, but then it has to be big in order to give full justice to all those different trees. The trees are divided, quite logically, as you would expect from an encyclopedia, into families. Forty-seven distinct families of trees are represented here, from the largest ones like Cypress, Pine, Rose, and Pea to smaller ones like Dogwood, Tupelo, and Foxglove. 

By the way, did you know that oaks are in the Beech (Fagaceae) family? Silly me, I would have thought they were a family on their own, the Oak family, but, no, they are cousins in the Beech family with beeches and sweet chestnut.

This is a book full of very useful information for a wide variety of readers. For example, landscape professionals and gardeners will find that not only are native species included, but also the many cultivars that are popular in garden landscapes. Lovers of the outdoors should find the illustrations, which show both full leaf and barer winter appearance, a great help in identifying and fully appreciating the trees that they encounter on their excursions. Even the more serious naturalists and foresters should be delighted with the inclusion of key facts concerning each tree represented here, including information on their native ranges and their dates of introduction into cultivation.

For the common variety gardener like myself, one of the most useful parts of the book was the introduction. This informative section includes an extensive list of trees for problem sites or special needs. Some of the problem sites and special needs covered were: Clay Soils; Very Wet Ground; Seaside Conditions; Acid Soils; For Interesting Bark; Town Streets, etc. Of course, one has to remember that this is an encyclopedia that covers two continents and must be sure to seek out cultivars that are adapted for one's area, but this is a helpful guide that can point us in the right direction.

The introduction is also where you will find an explanation of the notes that are included at the end of the description of each tree. These notes refer to the tree's height, hardiness, value in the garden, and the kind of wood the tree produces.

In the back of the book are an index of scientific names and an index of common English names.

David More and John White have done a masterful job, the work of several years, in collecting and collating all the information presented here, along with the beautiful and precise illustrations. It is hard to imagine a more complete and useful resource for identifying trees and their cultivars found in North America and Europe.

(A copy of this book was provided to me free-of-charge by the publisher for the purposes of this review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.)

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