This reference has a lot going for it and some major deficits. For a reference to a lay audience, it is a very good resource; I will throw that out there right off the bat. Another reviewer said there were no pictures, and I can promise that is a flat-out lie....
This reference has a lot going for it and some major deficits. For a reference to a lay audience, it is a very good resource; I will throw that out there right off the bat.
Another reviewer said there were no pictures, and I can promise that is a flat-out lie. Photos of the trees are one of the great things about this book, in my opinion. While there are few, if any, close-ups to show buds, leaves, or other pertinent, fine details, I think this book does show bark, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruits, and sometimes form very well.
Much of the information in this book is solid, common knowledge. The descriptions are phenomenal, though can be hard to visualize if you don''t already have a working knowledge of the trees. As someone who teaches dendrology, that visualization is a critical aspect of learning the trees if you don''t have an instructor or specimen in-hand. Written descriptions and their shortfalls aside, the descriptions of fruits, leaves, flowers, uses, etc, are very well-written and can provide additional clarity where the overall description falls short.
Now, this book has some serious problems that should have NEVER made it into the final publication. The range maps are accurate about 50% of the time. Maybe a bit more. I would highly recommend looking up BONAP or USDA ranges instead of using the sometimes incorrect maps in this guide. The legends for range maps include "Dense Population, Light Population, and Naturalized." Quite a few invasive species are color-coded as having a dense population, which implied nativeness to me, when there should have been an additional legend component (or a completely different legend for invasives) stating that the organism was invasive. At the very least, utilize the naturalized coloration so people know it''s not something you necessarily want in your yard and escaping cultivation. Some invasive species don''t even have a range map. Blue spruce (Picea pungens) had the northwest coast of Canada and part of Alaska superimposed over the entirety of all states west of Arizona - effectively cutting off a significant portion of its range. These are issues that should have been addressed in a written description or caught with proofs before publication.
Furthermore, at least one incredible species is completely omitted. Ozark chinquapin (Castanea ozarkensis) is a rare species ravaged by blight that would have been a wonderful addition to the book. There may be others.
There are two sets of silhouettes for each tree. Audubon could have significantly improved the book by keeping the order-level silhouettes at the margins for quick access and then including a silhouette of the tree species, itself. Having the same silhouette on a page twice is redundant and served only to eat up white-space.
Pretty much all parts of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is poisonous to livestock, but the book says it''s highly poisonous to humans. People use the flowers to make fritters all the time. In further research, it appears only the broken seeds are toxic, which makes sense and follows conventional wisdom for seed dispersal.
For a reference from a nationally recognized and respected entity, I expected a little more. My first impression was that Audubon had really upped their field guide game, but after a more thorough read-through, I no longer believe this to be the case. However, this book would be a wonderful reference for a true beginner in dendrology - provided they have someone who can help guide them on what the reference has gotten wrong or left ambiguous. Or, I suppose a healthy curiosity that leads them to research further would also suffice. I cut my teeth on the picture-forward Audubon guides as a child. The photos fascinated me, and I believe that spirit is preserved in the pages of this book. For all the negatives I have listed, I truly believe this book and the majority of the info in it to be a valuable asset to a budding naturalist and would be a welcome addition to any field guide collection. To a more seasoned naturalist, I find it to be a beautiful reference that can help jog the memory and serve as a baseline reference for species native to other parts of the US that I may be interested in researching.