Monday, April 22, 2013

What's that Tree? by Tony Russell

For Earth Day, Dorling Kindersley (DK) is celebrating all the good things that come from the Earth or live on the Earth by offering some discounts on books in its Earthly Pleasures boutique.

What's That Tree features more than 150 trees most common in North America. It shows beginners how to tell various trees apart using the shape of the tree as well as several characteristics of the leaves. The trees presented in the book are most commonly found in towns, parks, gardens and surrounding countryside.

I found this book informative. However, I wanted to be able to identify some of the trees in the virgin forest that surrounds my house and neighbourhood. Because of the incredibly late spring we are having (there are no leaves on the trees), identifying the trees is almost impossible using the methods in the book. I should be able to do much better once the trees get some leaves.

The book start off with ways to identify trees: leaf shapes, leaf margins, leaf arrangements, bark, flowers, seeds. It then launches into the section which goes over the trees themselves. This section is divided into sections: conifers, broadleaves - simple, broadleaves - compound. Within these parts, the trees are grouped by leave shape. The trees are generally presented 2 or 3 to a page, with the odd one getting a page to itself. It doesn't leave a lot of room for information, but the author manages to squeeze quite a bit in.

For each tree, the following information is given:
• description of the leaves and seeds (cones)
• a labelled photo of a leaf or leaves
• the height
• a key to indicate if it's deciduous or evergreen

There's also a "what to look for" list on every second page or so. I didn't find this information helpful. It was pretty redundant and repetitive.

The book is punctuated with 2-page spreads on different subjects: cones, tree life cycle, winter twigs and buds. All of these subjects were interesting and enlightening.

Two items at the back of the book might be somewhat useful for those familiar with the scientific names of the trees. The tree gallery groups the trees by scientific family name, which is then listed alphabetically by that name. It also includes photos, common names and the page numbers. The second item is a table of giving the full scientific names of the trees. I'm not sure how helpful it's going to be because the table is ordered by page number. It would have been much more useful had it been listed alphabetically by scientific name or even common name.

Even though I couldn't find the specific trees in my backyard, I did learn a few things from this book. Did you know that California's Giant Redwoods are conifers? I probably should have known this given their location, but I didn't. I also learned the difference between the some of the conifers. I was using "pine" interchangeably with "spruce". Now I know that they are totally different trees with striking differences.

The book contains a brief table of contents, a glossary and an index. The index is particularly helpful as the trees are listed in multiple ways. For example, the American Basswood is listed under the "A" for American and "B" for Basswood.


For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

What's That Tree by Tony Russell, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465402196(Softcover), 128p.

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