Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trees of Western North America by Richard Spellenberg, Christopher J. Earle, and Gil Nelson: A review

Trees of Western North AmericaTrees of Western North America by Richard Spellenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For those readers and Nature-lovers who need a comprehensive field guide to help them identify the trees of western North America, here is your book. This new guide, soon to be published by Princeton University Press, covers both native and naturalized trees of the western United States and Canada. The territory covered extends as far east as the Great Plains.

This book is very easy to navigate. It is divided into two main sections, the gymnosperms and the angiosperms, and within those sections it is further divided into families of trees. Overall, there are descriptions of some 630 species, which the publisher says is more than any comparable field guide. (I guess I'll take their word for it!)

An important part of any field guide, maybe the most important part, is the pictures. Trees of Western North America has thousands of meticulous color paintings of trees by David More. These are invaluable identification aids. The paintings are further enhanced by the detailed easy-to-understand descriptions and the accompanying range maps which, together, provide a quick and easy view of the individual species.

There is also copious information about recently naturalized species, as well as "Quick ID" summaries which make the information on each species more accessible. There is a key to shapes and structures of leaves along with an introduction to tree identification, forest ecology, and plant classification and structure.

The book defines trees broadly enough to include in its descriptions many small, overlooked species that are normally thought of as shrubs and it includes treelike forms of cacti and yuccas. The descriptions offer details of size and shape, growth habit, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, flowering and fruiting times, habitat, and range.

In short, the book has everything one could ask for in a field guide of trees in western North America and it certainly seems to nicely fill that niche. I think it should become a very useful and popular tool among those who are interested in this subject.

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)



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