Conifer book

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by petejacobsen, Aug 10, 2005.

  1. petejacobsen

    petejacobsen Member

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    In the birding world, at least at the moment, the Sibley book is considered the bible of identification. Is there a similar book (or contenders) that cover the significant majority of the conifers I'm liable to run across? I generally range from Arizona through California, Oregon, and Washington, if that matters.

    I've run across several smaller books that seem to leave out a great many of the conifers that have been planted in cities and towns, and only wish to deal with "native" trees. I'd like to find something much more inclusive.
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    For the bird guide format look for titles by Alan Mitchell.
     
  3. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Also titles by Keith Rushforth, particularly Conifers (Helm 1987 ISBN 074702801X; out of print but 2nd-hand copies sometimes available)
     
  4. petejacobsen

    petejacobsen Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. RonB, what do you mean by "the bird guide look"? I'll look for the Mitchell books in a few weeks when I'm at Powell's in Portland.
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Read it again: bird guide format. A few of his books are like bird guides, but show trees instead. Rushforth's book isn't like a bird guide, however.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  7. petejacobsen

    petejacobsen Member

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    Ron,
    The Collins Tree Book, which the link pointed to, is for Britian and Europe. I'm hoping for something to cover the west coast of the US

    I'll definitely be looking for the Mitchell and Rushforth titles, however.
     
  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    This is a good book to have as it covers
    a lot of native Conifers that will be seen
    in the Pacific Northwest also - Conifers
    of California
    by Ronald M. Lanner.

    Jim
     
  9. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The climates of the two areas are broadly similar, so what can be grown is much the same. Virtually all of the western American native conifers are in UK tree books, as they are all planted over here, to a greater or lesser extent. Just don't rely on any abundance data the books give, as they won't match (e.g. Abies lasiocarpa, Torreya californica and Pinus sabineana are planted over here, but aren't at all common - they are in the books, though). The only western American native conifers I can think of which aren't in these books are one or two of the rarer Cupressus like Cupressus bakeri (which you'll find in Ron Lanner's Conifers of California)
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Mitchell and Rushforth are also British. Rushforth's book is not organized like a bird guide, isn't even illustrated very much. The tree mix is basically the same out here as there, much more so than elsewhere in North America - plus the calibre of domestic publications is usually considerably less. If you still want what you asked for originally - a bird guide-style tree handbook that includes planted species found on the West Coast - the ones I mentioned will be your best bet. Next you will have to track down a domestic source, that perhaps will be the biggest problem.
     
  11. petejacobsen

    petejacobsen Member

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    Jim,
    According to Amazon's description, Conifers of California is "entirely devoted to the state's native cone-bearing trees and shrubs". It sounds like a good book, and I'm likely to get it, but what I was hoping for was something that would also include the many planted conifers I find.

    For a relative beginner, it is very difficult to know if a given tree is native, so I don't know whether I should expect to find it in the book.
     
  12. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    If it's any help, Alan Mitchell's Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe includes 170 species of conifers. The taxonomy is getting decidedly dated now though.

    Rushforth's Conifers covers over 500 species, though as Ron says, not heavily illustrated nor with identification keys.
     
  13. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    If you want to better know which
    specialty Conifers you are seeing
    or transplanted Conifers such as
    the Aleppo Pine then you are on
    your own. You will have to learn
    Conifers the hard way like most of
    us as so many of the cultivated Conifers
    are not adequately pictured in the books.

    Even then some of the more outstanding
    books on Conifers have some problem
    areas as far as the name matching the
    plant. I don't see anything wrong with
    knowing the native trees as then when
    we know them well we should have a
    good idea as to what is a cultivated
    Conifer.

    An across the board Conifer book
    dealing with the dwarf forms, semi
    dwarf forms, cultivated, species,
    subspecies and native forms will
    not be found. Some of the better
    books just on dwarf Conifers show
    less photos in them than there are
    on one hand. That is one reason why
    looking at various web sites such as
    conifers.org and the Conifer Society
    web page and others becomes so
    important to us as we can finally
    see a photo of the tree to which we
    know or knew of the name. There
    have been some Conifers named
    or cited in this forum to which
    photos of them just are not out
    there. Even still, a photo of let's
    say, Pinus thunbergiana 'Beni ogon
    janome kuromatsu'
    will most likely
    not be seen in digital form (although
    I could scan in an image from an old
    Yokohama catalog but I am not going
    to do it). Even then, will the photos
    be representative of the plants in Japan
    in which the variegated part of the
    needle will turn a brilliant rose pink
    in the Winter. Seldom seen here but
    a friend I gave one to in Beaverton,
    Oregon, gets to see the coloring about
    every other year.

    There is a reason why we will not always
    agree with Conifers as we had to learn
    them from the ground floor and the ones
    we know, especially the specialty plants,
    are ones we are in no mood to hear or read
    someone tell us we were wrong about how
    we learned them. Even Sir Harold Hillier
    and Humphrey Welch did not always see
    eye to eye on what a true dwarf Conifer
    was. I have a Pinus nigra 'Hornibrookiana'
    that is 20' tall now that at one time was
    listed in a prominent book as being a dwarf.
    A 20' tall dwarf, what is wrong with that
    picture and some of the ones still at the
    nursery are taller than mine but I am
    referencing 40+ year old Pines as well.
    Even some of Koto Matsubaras cutting
    grown Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'
    were over 30' tall. How large is the one
    shown in the Van Gelderen Conifers
    book? I am talking light years for a
    difference in the plants I know well
    and the one pictured in the book.

    I wish it were not so now but it used
    to be that in order to stay in tune with
    the cultivated Conifers would require
    us to have lots of nursery catalogs in
    our possession. Now, we may see a
    variety of names attached to the same
    plant that was not so much the case in
    years past. Knowing the source of the
    Conifer has become even more important
    in which we know by the name which
    nursery or nurseries are growing and
    selling it. Even if the plant is not what
    it truly is supposed to be. We see this
    much more rampant in specialty plants.
    So going out with book in hand may not
    help you when you see an akamatsu
    such as Pinus densiflora 'Alice Verkade'
    in a private garden in Portland or at Filoli
    Garden in Woodside.

    Jim
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Dwarf variants acquire vigor when grafted onto seedling rootstocks. So, descriptions they may be sold under - at least for awhile - are correct for the original specimen, but may not be for the propagules. Other largish examples are just old, being slow-growing rather than dwarf (as in staying tiny indefinitely). Some rhododendrons will grow into trees, too, over the course of 50-150 years.

    The British/northern European targeted tree field guides cover most of the important planted trees in Pacific Coast cities, north of California. Of course there will be numerous cultivars, as well as spontaneous seedlings of some species, such as Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, that will defy identification. But even with this overplanted species (over 50 treelike cultivars alone known or likely to have been encountered by 1995) there will also be certain highly distinctive ones that are shown and discussed, readily recognized.
     
  15. petejacobsen

    petejacobsen Member

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    Jim,
    Thanks for the long post. I hope my questions haven't irritated you. I completely agree that there is nothing wrong with learning the natives and leaving the many planted species for later learning.

    My problem: frequently I choose a tree that does not appear to be planted, struggle to identify it, fail, and then find out it is not a native.

    I'm heading back to Portland in a few weeks, and during my visits there I've been spending time at Reed College. They have virtually all of their trees identified and mapped on the web. I've learned a lot by picking a few species out for each visit, going to find the particular example trees, and studying them for a while. Perhaps doing that, together with some of the books suggested here, will help me get to know the natives.
     
  16. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Pete:

    I tried to learn the natives near me first and then
    branched out to cultivated Conifers, mainly Pines,
    as I already had a collection of Pines going prior
    to my searching out to learn the nursery standard
    Conifers and later onto other specialty Conifers.

    Just dealing with nursery standard Conifers can
    be tough as we cannot rely solely on the books
    to help. Pocket sized field guides are nice to
    have once we know what we are seeing but what
    we see pictured in the books does not always jive
    with what we are seeing in the books for the barks
    and cones on some of the younger Conifers.

    We have to try to learn what these plants are
    when we see them (just as you are doing) and
    know who to ask when we see a Conifer we
    are not sure about. Don't ever be afraid to ask
    for help as even some of the more common
    Conifers for us in our various locales will not
    be so common to other areas. It is a huge
    mistake to think that even common forms of
    Pine seen in Washington will look the same
    as they do here in California. Where I get
    irritated is when people that claim to know
    Conifers or give the impression they really
    know them have not seen enough of them
    to know my above statement is more than
    just accurate. As an example: look at the
    plating on the Pinus ponderosa in the Botany
    Photo of the Day and then ask why ours down
    here do not have the same bark color or that
    degree of plating as that one shown. Ours
    are much darker in color with less plating
    and have more red coloration.

    When people in Europe have to get out their
    books to know what we have out here, they
    are in trouble but so are we when we are in
    Europe and other areas such as Japan unless
    we've seen these plants before and know them.
    That is one reason why people rely on the cones
    for identification so they will not have to subject
    themselves to the differing physical attributes
    of why their Pines may look different than they
    do grown elsewhere or found in native settings.

    All the books mentioned so far are worth having.
    It all comes down to us and how much we want
    to learn Conifers. Also, it becomes a matter of
    what do we want from the books. All I did was
    let you know that what you want for information
    is what many of us wanted also at one time or
    another. I share how and what you are feeling
    as I've been there also. Trying and wanting to
    learn more about plants, even specific Conifers
    is not ever something for me to get irritated
    over. I am still learning these plants myself.
    It takes a lot of time and involvement to learn
    what is "out there" for Conifers and as soon
    as we think we know something, we will soon
    learn we do not know anything yet in the large
    spectrum of things, no matter who we are.

    Jim
     

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