BOOK REVIEW

Front Cover Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Trees & Shrubs of Britain
pub. Reader's Digest
New in Paperback 2001
304 pages, 9.99
ISBN 0 276 42507 3

The Readers' Digest 'Field Gude to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain' aims to 'enable anyone to identify without difficulty the trees and shrubs growing wild in Britain...' And the Guide very much lives up to that goal; perhaps as you would expect from a RD publication.

The opening section on 'How to identify trees' provides readers with an initial 'feel' for tree identification. We discover that tree shape is not foolproof means of identification since a species can change appearance depending on the conditions in which it grows (mountain slopes being a good example). Much more accurate indicators are leaf shape, bark colour and pattern, flowers and fruit, and the book devotes the first section to the basics of this.

The core section of the Guide, however, is the 250-something pages which groups our trees and shrubs by leaf and needle shapes (page references in the opening identification section will take the reader quickly to the relevant section without the need to thumb pages haphazardly). The book covers off 200 species of British trees and shrubs, 'including all the native trees, all the common introduced trees, and a number of ornamental shrubs...' You really cannot go wrong, can you?

Generally each tree and shrub species has a page devoted to it and includes artists' illustrations of typical tree shapes during winter and summer periods, a twig section showing leaves and their arrangement, flowers and fruits, plus photographs of a bark sample, and an example of the tree in-situ. A really compact layout which manages to provide the reader with enough comprehensive details to accurately identify the tree standing in front of them.

There are also small sections on 'Life in a Beech Wood', 'Birch Wood', 'Pine Wood' and larger page spreads on specific topics; examples being the identification of certain similar leaf types, a twig and bud key, pine needle and bud key, and cherry blossom and berry identification.

All in all the Guide does an excellent job and, unlike the rather weighty RD Field Guide to Wild Flowers, won't be too heavy to carry in a large jacket pocket. Like all the other Guides in the Nature Lover's Library series it represents good value for money at ten pounds.

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