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Discussion in 'Bushcraft and survival skills' started by dewi, Jan 2, 2016.
Can anyone recommend a good book for learning how to identify trees?
I used a few professionally, but one of the pest for size (small enough to take with you) and being comprehensive is the Collins Tree Guide. Hardcover has a more trees in it. I had more specialist books for conifers and the likes but that one is good, was trees in all seasons for year round id's. Hope that helps?
Collins Tree Guide is an excellent book for tree Ident
Thank you kindly Ordering it now.
Determined to learn more this year, so I figure tree identification is a good start.
Set yourself a challenge to learn to identify 10 trees a year. It doesn't matter what time of year you start. But bark, buds, leaf, flower and fruit studied and combinations of, will help you become competent in tree I'd. It's not until you really start to study species types, that you realise just how many species and variants there are growing out there. If I come across something in the field and I'm not 100% sure, I take a twig or a few leaves home in my pocket, to later identify. Often the Latin name can have clues in it, to help you with identification. Be that its characteristics, habitat, habit or uses.
Thank you for the advice... I'm going to give it a good lash, get my wife to test me as I go along and make sure I'm learning.
Collins book is very good - these are well worth a look too:
Strangely the Collins books images vary in publications and some are a bit off from what I have found but overall it's one of the main books I use.
i have the collins gems tree book, and it does the job quite nicely. It lives in my car
Well I currently use a Collins complete Guide to British Trees, authored by Paul Sterry. It has proper Photo's of Trees, Leaves, Buds, Bark, Twigs, Grain... rather than Illustrated drawings. I've found it to be a very good referral companion over the years.
Haven't tried the Collins Tree Guide authored by Owen Johnson & David More. I think I will purchase and add to library.
Getting in amongst Trees for the First time is Superb, is such a fulfilling journey to take and opens up a whole new world of wonder. And when you get to a stage in your beginner knowledge when you can start to, some-what easily identify Trees..... is a lot of Fun. Whether you're walking about some where or Driving about somewhere..... you won't be able to stop looking at trees. Just be careful when driving though.
The most effective thing you can do is walk through a wood with someone who knows trees. They will not only show you the different species, but point out the key ways to identify them (leaves or zig-zag branches for oaks, long narrow serrated leaves for chestnuts,etc).
The problem with books for any kind of natural history is that if the book is comprehensive, it's both too big to carry and too difficult to find the species you're trying to identify. You have to flip through hundreds of trees which only grow in the Antarctic in months beginning with a Q in order to find a picture of... the ash.
On the other hand, if the book is pocketable and shows only the commonest species in your area, you will be quite baffled because it fails to identify a lot of things you find.
The best strategy, failing access to a human expert, is to have a mix of books: one or two really authoritative ones, preferably organised by characteristics (leaf edge, flower colour) rather than taxonomy, and a couple of small pocket guides with big colour drawings (not photos; drawings can more easily show the key identifying features). Then you identify everything you can when you're out and about, and anything you're not sure of, take photos and make notes, then search the big books for it when you get home.
If you have a flashcard app on your smartphone (Flashcards Deluxe for iOS is a great one) there are lots of downloadable flashcard sets to help you learn trees, flowers, birds, etc.
You don't want to get a book to tell you how to identify trees. Get a tree guide book like the ones recommended and it will describe the form of each tree.
Up front I can tell you the leaf form (colour, shape: compound or simple etc), leaf growth (deciduous? Do they grow opposite: Pairs like Acers; alternate: One on one side, then the next on the other, or whorled?) bud (form and growth pattern, ie clustered, sticky, round or pointed), twig (colour, is it hairy? Or shiny?) flower (is it wind pollinated like Alnus or insect pollinated like A hippocastanum?) and finally fruit (gymnosperm, angiosperm, fleshy, etc)
Get some trees you know you know. Get a sample each season so you can identify them the year round. Use the tree ident book to understand the terminology (pinnate, cordate, palmate, glaucous, glabrous etc) and label a tree that you know you can identify. When you can dissect and annotate trees you DO know, you can move onto those you don't. Seriously, books are the worst way of learning these things.
Authority: Forestry student first year who gets full marks on his tree ident tests. I know the Latin names of about 50 trees or more, and about 30 shrubs.
I reckon the best way to recognise trees is to just actually get out there and look at them.
Then a wee sketch book and a pencil and draw the bits that you recognise as intrinsically that tree. If you do it season by season you become aware of the changes too…and you pick up on the bits and pieces of information that tell you how and what to use of the trees too.
Gives you a mental map of where to find them too so when you do need a bit of it, be it fruit, leaf, sap, bark, root, stick or even fungus, you're in with a chance.
I do think a good easily read tree reference book kept at home is a good thing though. It does give you something to use as a starting point.
Something like the hardback Readers Digest book of British Trees and shrubs.
This one's old, but the trees are still growing and it's a good approachable read.
+1 for this. Good, clear and detailed.
I bought loads of tree books and could never really get the information stored in my head, as I'm a bit of a practical learner rather than being able to learn from books, I tried a different method.
I'd pick a tree, try to make as many mental notes about it as I could, save a leaf maybe a piece of bark, take a picture.
Then once home I'd look it up and find out the species. After that I'd then try to spot that one species over and over again 'til I was comfortable identifying it every (most of the) time. Not trying to learn loads of trees all at once. Seems to be working, but the scrap book is bulging a bit!
There are a lot of apps for smartphones you can download to help with the identification of trees both thru the bark and the leaf, many by the Forestry commision, easy to use and very helpful
I'd have to agree with the Collins guide, it is a solid companion and was first recommended to me by a tree surgeon of 30+ years experience and subsequently by a curator of an arboretum, although he was recommending it purely for general UK native tree id.
Depending on your ID experience/skills you could always look at the woodland trusts online tree guide However this won't necessarily help you with ID, certainly not in the field! They also have their Nature Detectives twig id sheet - I know it is a children's guide, but it shows a number of native species twigs on the same A4 page and it works really well. We use these when running workshops on tree id with the public as not everyone knows what to look for and where on the specimen.
Even experienced wildlife experts often don't know where to start with trees as they just form the background to the stuff they're interested in!
Loads of interesting ideas in the thread. When it comes to tree and indeed plant identification I would say start with whats useful. Unless you want to be a specialist in tree identification for some reason then knowing every species and sub species. I can pick out a good number of trees and plants although I have no interest in their latin names. Knowing a hawthorn from an elder is great but knowing you can eat the flowers of the hawthorn, its berries and most importantly that it has vicious thorns is much better. I find that learning something is much easier when you have a reason to remember it and associated facts help. Most tree guides will show you how to spot a species of tree from its leaves, form etc but few will give those additional facts that make it important to you. Lime trees have fruits that taste like chocolate, before I knew that I didn't pay much attention to them. Holly is easy to remember thanks to its prickly nature but it also grows in a wide variety of places and can make a great emergency shelter from the elements. The more use a plant is to you the more mental links you form so identifying becomes easier.