Category: Nature

Tree ID Books: A Review

I used a dichotomous key for the first time way back in elementary school. Way, way back. Which means my memory of the details is fuzzy, but I do remember this: going out near the playground where there were some large trees (ash, willow, maybe cottonwood?) and some not quite as large trees (crabapples, I think) and we learned how to identify a tree using a key. Obviously, it must have been quite a simplified key, and probably just for the trees we would encounter out there. Regardless of how simplified or not the keys may have been, the lesson stuck with me; you can identify a tree (or any other plant) by paying close attention to its parts.

In the third installment of my reviews and recommendations for plant identification guides, we’ll take a look at a couple books about trees, one of which has a lovely dichotomous key to help you along.

(I took some photos of the books, but didn’t realize I had the lens cap on my camera. *face palm* So, if you click on the title of the book, you’ll be taken to the description of the book on the Logan Library website. I’m a big advocate of libraries, so check to see if yours has the books!)

The first book is Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West: a Guide to Identification and Use by Michael Kuhns. This book gives well-written descriptions about both native and introduced trees that you will encounter in Utah and the surrounding states. There’s not really a good dichotomous key, so you have to have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking at before you thumb through the book to check and see if you are right.

However, one of the highlights of the book is the section on use in the back. There are extensive tables listing all of the trees in the book and their stats – mature size, aspect needs, whether it has specific ornamental qualities like flowering or fall color, general shape, and overall home landscape suitability. For that reason alone I would recommend this book.

The second book is the National Geographic Field Guide to the Trees of North America by Keith Rushforth. This book is one that I would recommend if you want an easy-to-use general guide of trees of North America. Obviously not all trees within the country can be contained in one, packable field guide, but the most common ones  are included. The dichotomous key at the front of the book doesn’t have too many technical terms, so you won’t have to have a botanical dictionary on hand to use it, but it does help to have some familiarity with plant terms. If you need some brushing up on the difference between simple and compound leaves or the different fruit types, there are some nice illustrations also included.

The key itself only gets you to the tree family, and then you have to thumb through the pages dedicated to that family to find your particular tree of question. That being said, having a reduced key makes for an easier to use (and carry with you) book.

 

Do you have any favorite tree id books?

Wildflower ID Books: A Review

The snow may be melting here, but I know that getting new snow is still a very real possibility. And it could happen all the way through April. Or May. Or even June. I remember a couple years getting snow in June. But luckily from here on out any new snow we do get probably isn’t going to stick around for too long.  Well, at least down here in the valley. There is still plenty of snow in the mountains – and that’s a good thing – but the truth is, I’ve already started dreaming about summer, and hiking, and wildflowers.

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Winter

snowshoeing, Art Nord trail, Ogden Valley

Snow covered conifers get me every time. I love ’em!

Winter

The now fell softly through the night

And in the morn, behold

A glorious picture crystal bright

To my vision now unforlds.

 

I gaze with wonder and delight

At such a scene as this.

The earth is robed in purest white,

And nothing seems amiss.

 

For every tree and every bough

With reverence bending low

Seems as in prayer for tender care,

And the peaceful scene below.

 

And on each bough and each fine twig

A thousand diamonds shine,

And cast their sparkling glory forth

A picture most sublime.

 

The fool, and he alone hath said

In his heart, “There is no God,”

But all around us men can see

His marvelous works of love.

— Emma Thornley —

Wildflowers of Joshua Tree National Park

A couple weeks ago I shared some photos of wildflowers from my trip to Death Valley National Park. Since we were in California for National Parks week, we figured we might as well visit Joshua Tree National Park while we were at it. We were perhaps a little bit different from the normal crowd that visits Joshua Tree – we’re no rock climbers, mind you – but we (and probably especially me) once again enjoyed the diversity of plant life we found there. Continue reading

Death Valley Wildflowers

Back in April, during National Parks Week, my husband and I took a week off from our jobs and set out to explore two National Parks neither of us had visited before. Our first stop was Death Valley National Park. We had planned this trip back in January, when I was hoping that it might be a good year for wildflower viewing, and then in February and March the Death Valley “Superbloom” happened. Continue reading