Latest tree guidebook noticeably improved

Posted Aug. 25, 2008, at 9:44 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages tend to accumulate books that help them enjoy their chosen pursuits.

Some read about hunting. Others collect editions that focus on fishing. Others have countless volumes that detail hikes they long to take … some day.

Look more closely on many of those shelves, and you’ll find a few guidebooks. Some tell you the difference between various birds or plants or critters.

Those guides come in different shapes and sizes but share a common component: The best don’t just tell. They show.

Take the best of those books to the window and you’ll be able to easily determine exactly what bird is eating at your feeder, or what kind of varmint is skulking across your lawn.

Thanks to the Maine Department of Conservation’s Maine Forest Service, those who love spending time outdoors in Maine have another title that will become an essential part of any collection.

That book, the Centennial Edition of “Forest Trees of Maine,” doesn’t have the kind of title that makes your heart flutter in anticipation.

Open to any page, however, and you’ll quickly see how valuable the book can be.

The DOC has been printing “Forest Trees of Maine” since 1908 (thus the Centennial Edition), and until now, it has been a functional, if unspectacular, booklet.

Chances are, you might even have an old copy of it stashed away somewhere. There were, after all, 13 editions of it published before this one.

But forget about the old versions. Focus on this one. And realize one thing: This isn’t your grandfather’s “Forest Trees of Maine.”

“There was a decision to put out a more elaborate edition because it is in fact the 100th anniversary [of its first publishing],” said Eliza Townsend, DOC deputy commissioner.

Townsend admitted that previous editions were a bit nondescript compared to their 2008 cousin.

“I think you could describe it as plain vanilla in the past,” she said with a chuckle.

If that’s the case, you could describe the Centennial Edition as a 12-scoop sundae … you pick the flavors.

“It’s full-color, it’s really detailed and it gives you a good sense of scale,” Townsend said. “One of the things I like most is the historic photographs … I would describe it as more user-friendly.”

That it is.

If you know what a specific tree looks like, you can find color photographs of leaves, bark and cones or buds for comparison.

If you need a bit more help, you can use the book as a step-by-step guide, taking advantage of a table of “couplets” that walk you though the identification process.

Confused?

Don’t be.

The couplets work simply, posing an either-or question before guiding readers to further questions.

Does your tree have needles? If you answer yes, jump ahead to question two.

If not, read on, and answer the next question.

Eventually, you’ll learn what family your tree is a part of. And before long, you’ll find out exactly what tree it is.

Perhaps best of all: There are different sets of couplets designed to help readers make accurate tree identification during the winter and the summer.

The DOC pulled out the stops in this version of “Forest Trees of Maine” and paid close attention to many small details that are sometimes overlooked.

For instance, many favorite guidebooks are loved to death, as readers pore through the pages to find specific information.

“Forest Trees of Maine” is ready to be read — its 178 pages are spiralbound, allowing readers to fold the book flat or turn it inside-out while researching a particular tree.

The vintage photographs are stunning, and the ID photos are crisp and in focus. Accompanying information assures that you’ll learn more about each of the 78 tree species included.

In the book’s introduction, the DOC explains that not all Maine trees are included; instead, all of the state’s “commercially important native” species are the focus.

A few of the more important nonnative trees are included, however.

The DOC began putting together the Centennial Edition more than a year ago and received final copies within the last month or so.

Townsend said initial reaction has been exactly what the DOC had hoped for.

“People who’ve seen it are really excited and really eager about it,” Townsend said. “We’re very proud of it.”

Adding to the DOC’s pride is the fact that much of the work was done in-house.

“That’s one of the things that’s so exciting about it,” Townsend said. “The photos were taken by our staff, the bulk of the work was done by our field staff.”

Readers will find plenty of information about the state’s logging history and can learn about the uses of many of Maine’s trees.

Townsend said the newest edition of “Forest Trees of Maine” is a fitting way to recognize the importance the state’s forests play.

“This is after all the Pine Tree State, and our forests are an enormous part of our heritage,” Townsend said. “Helping people appreciate what we have is one of the reasons for having this publication.”

If you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of the Centennial Edition of Forest Trees of Maine, you can purchase one for $7 through the Maine Department of Conservation.

Go to www.maine.gov/doc for more information.

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