i'll leaf it up to you guys
November 27, 2010 12:01 PM   Subscribe

What's the best tree identification guide out there?

Something pretty, but informative, but not too over my head, but not dumbed-down either. Looking for something a layperson can use when out on a walk. Eastern US would be best, but North America in general would also work. There's a bunch of options on Amazon, but all the commenters seem to recommend the other books and I can't decide.

I just know MeFi is harboring some amateur arborists that can point me in the right direction.
posted by kidsleepy to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe this will help; I hope so:

In San Francisco, we are lucky enough to have the Urban Forest Map. Maybe following links there can help you in your search? Good luck! Trees rule!
posted by trip and a half at 12:40 PM on November 27, 2010

What Tree is That? In book or mobile app.

You can narrow your search by looking out for guides that use leaf identification keys, like this one.
posted by notyou at 12:41 PM on November 27, 2010

The Audubon Field Guide to North American Trees is what my family had when I was a kid in the 80s. It (and the accompanying bird and wildflower versions) was one of my first additions to my reference library as a young adult. It has tons of great pictures, is easy to use and well-organized, and has enough information laid out in such a way that you can learn a little or a lot, depending on how how much time you have (it's also just fun to browse). The binding is also really sturdy and the book itself is compact.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:35 PM on November 27, 2010

Here in the Seattle area, we are blessed beyond belief to the have the marvelous Arthur Lee Jacobson books (warning web .5 site, but it has all you need).
He's an incredible wealth of information about the trees in this area - both native and planted.
posted by dbmcd at 4:27 PM on November 27, 2010

I have a shelf full of tree books, and have looked at dozens more. For quick and easy identification in the East and Midwest I always turn to Peterson's A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (all US except the West) - small enough to carry around too. Arthur Plotnik's The Urban Tree Book is also a must have - not for identification, which is just the start of the fun, but for great narratives about the most common street trees.
posted by Jackson at 5:03 PM on November 27, 2010

Sibley's Guide to North American Trees is one I have and like. It's watercolor illustrations rather than photos. The range maps are nice, the text is good though sometimes I want a bit more, and it has a lot of trees. If you want a book to carry around, this one might be too big/heavy, and you might do better with a more modest one just for your area.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:37 PM on November 27, 2010

I'm going to have to go an get a copy of Plotnik's Urban Tree Book now, that looks like fun. Uhm, I'm gonna out on a limb here and say that I don't have a favorite tree identification book and I've always relied on having a few different books around. For quick field identification of leaves in a slim volume, I like May Watt's Tree Finder. I've had an easier time identifying trees using the Peterson field guide over Audubon. The Sibley book looks really pretty.

For me personally, I found that Audubon's guides to Eastern Forests were a really good way to learn trees - knowing what to expect in a given ecosystem made identification a lot faster. On that same note, Tom Wessel's books on Reading the Forested Landscape (even though written specifically about New England) also gave me a richer context for identification.
posted by ajarbaday at 10:23 AM on November 28, 2010

I'll second the May Watt suggestion. We have the Pacific Coast version of that tree finder and it was awesome to have a little, thorough dichotomous (sp?) key stashed in a pocket while out in the woods. Note to self: get one that works in the east coast now, too!
posted by Sublimity at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2010

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