BOOK REVIEW

Trees of Britain and Northern Europe - Collins Field Guide
by Alan Mitchell
pub. Harper Collins, 1978
Paperback 19.99, 420 pages
ISBN 0 00 219213 6

The definition of a tree used for this Guide is 'a woody, perennial plant which can attain a stature or more on a single stem' and while the tree stem may 'divide low down' it must do so above ground level. Consequently, Elderberry and Dogwood don't pass muster, while Hawthorn does. Shrubs are definitely out.

A pretty heavyweight identification key and guide to variants of trees follows a short Introduction which also includes sections of estimating the age of a tree and tree height.

As a general rule the book uses leaf features as its core means of identification, and there are some excellent colour illustrations [40 colour plates] with lots of fine leaf detail, backed up by more than six hundred black and white line drawings which, although small, adequately define shape and structure of leaf specimens. Many of the line drawings usefully have a 3 cm line to indicate scale.

Of the 800 trees featured only thirty five species are native to Britain, but Mitchell's book contains just about every tree cultivar to be found in Britain and Europe north of the Mediterranean, and really only excludes the rare exotics that you might expect to find in botanic gardens.

Ordered by Families, every species is provided with notes on its english and scientific names, natural distribution, physical appearance, and date of introduction to Britain. Descriptions of the bark, crown shape, foliage, flowers and fruit, and growth are all provided, plus frequent recognition notes, and similar species ones where this applies. And although there is the occasional comment such as 'seed large and edible [preferable roasted]', this is not light or chatty book but a serious workhorse for those wanting to identify trees.

Towards the back there is a section devoted to 'Collections of trees open to the public' which singles out specimens of interest for tree enthusiasts to track down. There's a 'remarkable butter-nut' at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire, for example, and a 'fine Sugar maple' at Stratford Park near Stroud.

Bottom line...
A good solid Guide which will undoubtedly last the serious tree enthusiast a lifetime in the field.

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There are a number of Collins 'Field Guides' which may be of interest to readers keen on exploring Britain's natural history, among these are:

Bird Nests, Eggs & Nestlings of Britain & Europe - ISBN 0 00 220125 9
Bird Songs and Calls of Britain & Northern Europe - ISBN 0 00 220037 6
Caterpillars of Britain & Europe - ISBN 0 00 219080 x
Butterflies of Britain & Europe - ISBN 0 00 219992 0
Insects of Britain & Northern Europe - ISBN 0 00 219918 1
Mammals of Britain & Europe - ISBN 0 00 219779 0

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