WoodCentral's Book Reviews

by Jon Arno

Discovery Books (Random House): 2000
Paperback, 192 pp., $14.95
ISBN 1-56331-840-7

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     Trees is one of those hefty little ID books (5" x 8") printed for the Discovery Channel on heavy paper with a sturdy binding to make it last. Some photography, and full color drawings illustrate over 160 world species of trees, their leaves and blooms. The entries are grouped according to biomes sharing similar environmental conditions: temperate forest, tropical forest, northern boreal forest, rain forest, tidal zones, shores and swamps, savanna and chaparral, and desert.
     Besides size, range and common names, Arno includes historic uses of these various trees. For example, mesquite: "The narrow seed pods are sweet and an important source of forage. Mesquite shrubs may develop enormous underground stems called 'cepas,' which serve as firewood in areas where little else is available. At one time, wood from the mesquite was used for railway cross-ties and fence posts and the bark and wood provided an ingredient for tanning. The inner bark of the root supplied fiber for coarse fabric, while an amber-colored gum exuded from the trunk was used in medicines."
     About two-thirds of the book is taken up in such descriptions, with the other third covering the tree as a living thing, and how to become a forest naturalist. 'How Trees Work' covers pollination, root systems, leaf sturcture, growth, branching, and pest infestation. Man's relation to trees, milling logs into lumber, grafting and bio-engineering, and 'Trees as Art' are some of the short essays presented that make fascinating reading.
     The 'naturalist' section describes how to identify different trees, how to take rubbings to record bark patterns, and how best to photograph trees. 'Extreme Trees' is a short section on the oldest, the biggest, the tallest and the one of greatest girth. (The baobab in Africa can store twenty-five thousand gallons of water. It's root system may extend three hundred feet.)
     This little volume is an amazing read, with excellent photography and illustrations, all in color. Anyone who appreciates wood, must appreciate trees. Arno's book is a very well done and informative guide.

. . . Barb Siddiqui