This past weekend I had a chance to take a recently published book out on test run at one of our local parks. The book is intended to help amateurs like me properly identify trees.
What Tree Is That? is a new book published by the Arbor Day Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to tree conservation, care, and education. This pocket-sized reference book is a user-friendly, step-by-step guide to the more common trees in North America. The 164-page book features full-color botanical illustrations and a durable, water-resistant cover, and helps readers recognize more than 250 varieties based on leaf margins, textures, pods, nuts, and the arrangement of leaves on twigs.
The book uses a series of questions and “Go To” directions to lead you to the proper identification of a tree – a “decision tree,” so to speak (sorry, couldn’t avoid that one).
Using the step-by-step process I was able to properly identify several trees that still had leaves on them.
One very cool aspect about What Tree Is That? is that it fully embraces modern technology. It includes a variety of online resources that you can link to, including an online edition of the book that allows you to click through the steps of identification, with leaf in hand, to discover the correct tree species. A "Tree ID Tutorial" introduces beginners to identification skills using detailed animation, and a podcast describes more about the book and the organization. The Arbor Day website also offers a free What Tree Is That? mobile identification guide for smart phones.
Since the book uses leaves (and needles) to lead you down the correct identification path, you obviously won’t be able to use the book to identify deciduous trees during the winter months.
Although the book contains a handy glossary on the inside flap of the front cover, which includes explanatory sketches, I do have one comment/suggestion for the authors with this respect. As a complete amateur on trees, I definitely would’ve benefitted with a few more sketches that provide a visual on a few more of the terms used in the book.
Having said all that, What Tree Is That? makes for a great hiking companion and educational tool.
You can find more information about the book by clicking here.
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