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The Urban Tree Book

The Urban Tree Book
Arthur Plotnik
New York: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 417 p., $18.95

Art Plotnik's book, subtitled "An Uncommon Field Guide for City and Town," is the perfect book for someone interested in identifying the trees growing around them, while avoiding the standard taxonomic guide. The author, a Chicagoan, in consultation with The Morton Arboretum, includes in his book sections on broadleaf, needled and palm trees, making the book useful to a broad audience.

Written in an entertaining style, Plotnik describes more than 200 species of "tough trees for tough places." Information on specific trees includes distinguishing features, typical city locations, average size in urban areas and, for comparison, champion size. He relates each tree's positive and negative features, but cold hardiness zones are not mentioned.

Each tree has a story to tell, whether mythological or related to yesterday's headlines, and Plotnik has gathered all of the details to make this book entertaining, even about trees that do not grow in the Chicago area. Whether it is Daniel Boone carving his name in 1760 into a beech tree (that lived until 1916) or the sad saga of the recently touted Bradford pear that is not living up to its press releases, the author tells all. Enhanced by delicately lifelike drawings by his wife, Mary Phelan, of leaves, pods and growth habits, this book can be the foundation of a tree library.

— Adele Kleine, Master Gardener at the Chicago Botanic Garden and contributing writer to Chicagoland Gardening magazine.