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A Natural History of North American Trees

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  105 ratings  ·  21 reviews
"A volume for a lifetime" is how The New Yorker described the first of Donald Culross Peatie's two books about American trees published in the 1950s. In this one-volume edition, modern readers are introduced to one of the best nature writers of the last century. As we read Peattie's eloquent and entertaining accounts of American trees, we catch glimpses of our country's hi ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published October 10th 2013 by Trinity University Press (first published April 2nd 2007)
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Mar 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sylva, non-fiction
Another book on trees, this time those in North America.

Compared to Colin Tudge's book The Tree (see my review), A Natural History of North American Trees has less science and more lore. Peattie lays out the story of America's long vanished primeval forests and describes uses the natives and Europeans had for the trees found in them. He includes a fair bit of detail on many of the species, especially the famous and important ones ones like redwood, white pine, douglas fir, etc, always outlining
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know how to recommend this book because I don’t quite know how to describe it. Peattie’s masterpiece is at once an encyclopedia and field guide, yet also an exhaustive history and poetic tribute to the noble trees that span across the United States and Canada. As I read it, it stirred up the feeling of awe that my first sighting of a giant redwood evoked and a certain sentimentality in reflecting upon the black ash and pin oak trees that grew just outside my childhood home. Each entry ca ...more
Lolo S.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lolo by:
[Listened via audiobook]

Simultaneously a field guide and also a bit of a love letter to native trees. Peattie gets all the stars for romantic, whimsical descriptions of even the most common trees. If you dislike anthropomorphism then you should give this book wide berth (I'm looking at you, Ken-ichi).

The book covers many North American native trees, organized roughly phylogenetically. Peattie describes the habit and ecology of the trees, and a great del of time discussing the lumber uses. It's n
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I said a book describing trees made me cry, you'd think I'm crazy.

Well...this book describing trees made me cry, and you'll do the same. If you read one book on trees, read this one. Start with species you know and then explore. Each tree has its own beautiful, and occasionally tragic, narrative.

Every time I read a selection from this book I want to (1) write, (2) hike, and (3) do more...of everything. It's rare any book can inspire in so many ways.

Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! If you don't already love trees, you will after this. It is the best natural writing you can find. And the illustrations are just fantastic. It is so scientific in its information but you don't even realise you are reading non-fiction. You expect at any moment to have a talking redwood come around the corner and deliver the world's mysteries to your feet!
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It wasn't thrilling because it isn't a novel or story in any way. It's like a text book about North American trees. But the way it is written is so beautiful, very essayistic and poetic. You begin to feel like all these trees are your long lost loved friends.
This book is a variety of books in one: American history; industrial forestry guide; naturalist's field guide; and nature appreciation. I finished the entire book in order to savor the lattermost kind. Peattie's prose is obviously the product of an earlier time; earlier even than the early 1950s in which he originally published this work. I knew within a few chapters that this book would be something I would likely turn to in future years to replenish an appreciation for the trees themselves and ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful book. This is a great book to read if you want to exercise your brains ability to visualize what you are reading/listening to. The way he describes these trees exposes you to an earnest reverence/love that is hard to come by.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Written in the 1940's this book does an excellent job of setting context and giving the historical background for all the trees in our sylva (his word for 'the woods'). The sections are quaint, well researched and so nicely written that you forget that you're reading a book about trees.
Ted Dettweiler
I'm going to pick my way through this one-volume edition of Peattie's original 2 volumes on American trees that had been published in the 1950's.

I started today with a Waterloo County heritage tree (I believe I am correct in that) - the black walnut, en français, le noyer noir (black nut)ou noyer d'Amérique. My dad planted two or three black walnuts (fire off an email to see if Dad remembers where he got the saplings) along the fence line (where the fence had been) between where grandpas old smo
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many things I loved about this book. Published in 1953, the writing captures the essence of a time far away yet still close enough to touch through the breathtakingly beautiful prose that seems to have flowed effortlessly from the author's pen. I have always had an affinity for trees but this book made me love and appreciate them in a way that feels like a gift. This is also a sad book, for he often discusses the decimation of North America's primordial groves and the sense of loss ...more
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: distractions
This is a book, published in the 1950s, of history and naturalism and the usage and industry of trees. His narratives of individual species are strangely evocative, beautiful in their succinctness, and best of all, smart. About White Oak, he writes:

The British loftily shook their heads at American White Oak as far inferior to their own. Well, if the mother country would not take our White Oak, we would build our own ships of it...not good enough for the British Navy, they were just good enough
Unlike soulless field guides, this marvelous work draws one deep into the cultural and historic aspects of the most prominent of the American trees. It's the difference between getting lost in a good historical narrative vs. cramming to memorize the list of facts presented as history in grade school.

Written some sixty years ago by the late, warmly brilliant Donald Culross Peattie (UChicago alumni, what what), these chapters are no more dated or less wonderful than the newly found contents of a f
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminds me a lot of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold--which is one of my favorite books. (They were written approximately contemporaneously). It is a bedside-type book where I read a few relaxing (and tree-trivia-filled) pages before falling asleep.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so good I can't even describe how good it is. Now if only I could remember all the information in it...
Apr 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I you are looking for a book on trees. This is it. Good Illustrations and witty wonderful descriptions!
Leslie Allison
Oct 28, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Nov 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
super nifty. Full of interesting facts and broken up into short blurbs about each tree so you don't have to read the whole book at once.
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Wonder. Wisdom. Words.
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Donald Culross Peattie was a U.S. botanist, naturalist and author. He was described by Joseph Wood Krutch as "perhaps the most widely read of all contemporary American nature writers" during his heyday. He was nature columnist for the The Washington Star from 1924 to 1935.
His nature writings are distinguished by a poetic and philosophical cast of mind and are scientifically scrupulous. His best kn