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Book Review: Trees in Your Pocket: A Guide to Trees of the Upper Midwest by Thomas Rosburg

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Due to our increasingly urban environments, it takes planning and intention to find oneself under the canopy of trees. Whether a grove, forest, or woodlot, these sentinels of wood are humbling and invite us to see the bigger picture and our place in it. When I’m out in a stand of timber, though, I find myself at a loss. I don’t have the names to describe the trees around me or the skills to identify them. Many tree guides are comprehensive and thus, overwhelming. Sometimes you need something a little more targeted. Perfect for my region, the new Bur Oak Guide, Trees In Your Pocket: A Guide to Trees of the Upper Midwest by Thomas Rosburg (2012, University of Iowa Press) comes to my rescue. Similar to other guides in this series, it is a laminated pamphlet that opens up to show identification keys for 40 deciduous species found in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri.

The quantity of information in this small guide is really quite impressive. Each tree’s entry is divided into three sections. Two high quality photographs show leaf, seed, and fruit examples as well as a close-up view of the bark. The text portion lists both the common and Latin names, a description of its characteristics, the ecosystem and states in which it can be found, life span, and the location and stats of the Champion (largest individual tree) of each species.

Taking up minimal space and weighing virtually nothing, Trees in Your Pocket is the ideal guide to bring along on expeditions into the forest. The simple layout, clear photos, and precise descriptions make it a cinch for the novice to successfully identify what tree is before him or her. I found it to be especially helpful for use by children. Because of the fold-out design, one can hold the bark photos directly up to the tree and compare different photos until a match is found. If you’re in the Midwest, this is a wonderful addition to your field guide collection.

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