Books for Tree Lovers

We asked Tree Stewards and our valued partners to share some of their favorite tree books, and here are a few worth putting on your wish list. Others will be added as more members contribute suggestions.


On Sale Now!

Casey Trees Species Guide

If you’ve ever seen a tree and wondered what it was, this waterproof guide with more than 70 species found in the Washington metro area is for you. [Editor’s Note: Tree Stewards trainees received this highly coveted book as part of their course materials. Now, for the first time, it’s available to all for $30, which includes a $20 tax deductible contribution to the fine work of Casey Trees. Click here.] All proceeds go directly towards our Park Inventory program, which gives us a better understanding of the current tree stock of the District. You can’t protect what you don’t know. —Casey Trees

City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C.

By Melanie Choukas-Bradley

The best guide for this region, as it has every possible tree species you could find in the area. Most other guides either miss ornamental or native trees, but this one has it all. No pictures, but precise local knowledge on where to find every species and excellent descriptions of the trees. Illustrations by Polly Alexander. —Vincent Verweij, Urban Forest Manager, Arlington County

Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests

By Joan Maloof

An amazing exploration of the value of forests and particularly old-growth forests.

Trees of North America and Europe


By Roger Phillips

The best picture book I have for tree ID. This was given to me by Tree Steward Don Walsh, and I highly recommend it.

Up by Roots

By Jim Urban

A more technical guide of how to make a space for healthy trees in an urban environment. —VV

Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs

By Michael A. Dirr

This may seem old (1997) and expensive ($76 to $143) too, but I still love its fine color photos of a tree or shrub’s most salient features. Dirr’s personal observations about what is worthwhile about each selection and some growth parameters are particularly useful to both new and experienced gardeners looking for that special woody plant for a space to be filled with just the right choice. I bring this book to the tree distributions in Arlington at which I volunteer. Shirlington Library has a copy to lend. —Lynn Barton, TSAA
[Editor’s note: This volume has been updated and named Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, with 3,700 species, 3,500 photos, and lower price, $41.40 hardcover. At 952 large-format pages, it makes a dandy doorstop when not otherwise occupied.]

Whitetail Savvy: New Research and Observations about the Deer, America’s Most Popular Big-Game Animal

By Leonard Lee Rue III

Some time back a [Capital Naturalist] group member suggested reading Whitetail Savvy by Leonard Lee Rue III. I really loved the book because it answered all my questions about my deer neighbors and some I hadn’t thought to ask. It is widely available, from used book sellers, from Amazon, as an ebook. It runs in the $20 +/- range and might make a good holiday present. This author has raised deer herds and studied deer in the wild for decades. If, like myself, you are not a hunter, you just need to ignore or get over those parts. It’s clear he respects the animals. Just FYI. —Robin Young via Capital Naturalist on Facebook

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

Cover: The Wild Trees
Cover: The Wild Trees

By Richard Preston 
Join this nonfiction quest to find and climb the tallest organism on Earth, a California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens. This is the true story of Steve Sillet, Marie Antoine and the daring amateur naturalists and botanists who discovered a new world, with species previously unknown to science, living in soil in the treetops more than 300 feet above the forest floor. This tale has everything: adventure, courage, failure, love, and treetop sex. If The Wild Trees doesn’t make you want to climb a tree, nothing will. —Jo Allen
Amazon review. Kirkus review: Enthralling.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate ―Discoveries from A Secret World

hidden life trees cover

By Peter Wohlleben
German forester Wohlleben demonstrates how trees have survived for millennia against daunting odds: They communicate through chemical means, giving sugars to their offspring and signaling pest invasions that allow their neighbors to arm their leaves. The criticism that Wohlleben goes too far down the trail of anthropomorphism is indeed valid. Nevertheless, it will give you a new perspective on forests. —JA
Amazon review. New York Times mini review.

Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Cover: Seeing Trees

By Nancy Ross Hugo; Photography by Robert Llewellyn
Look no further than this gorgeous large-format book for a crash course in tree identification. Anyone who digests the descriptions of 10 “everyday trees” and the useful advice about where to look, what to look for, and what it tells will surely ace Tree Stewards! The photographs are fantastically dreamy and ethereal while being perfect illustrations of the text. —JA

Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast

By Michael Wojtech

Lavishly illustrated with color photos of the bark of dozens of trees found in the Northeastern U.S., this book is helpful for trying to identify trees in winter when their telling leaves are missing. Wojtech has affixed a quarter, to show scale, on many of the trunks and shows how bark patterns change, sometimes radically, as trees mature and age. Illustrations of bark patterns are useful in the key, and each tree’s branching pattern and leaf outline also help with identification. A gem. — JA

The Sibley Guide to Trees

By David Allen Sibley

Here’s the guide to carry into the woods on your next tree ID trek. It clearly, with bark, branch, bud, flower, fruit and leaf illustrations nails more than 600 tree species, both native and introduced, and includes many maps to show species distribution. Some habit information is included for some species, but not all. So if you want to grow one of these trees, you should consult an online .edu site for sun, shade, water, soil, and other preferences before buying or planting. —JA


The Overstory

overstory cover

By Richard Powers
Here’s an epic novel, set in all corners and the middle of America, uniting disparate souls with a common quest that slowly overtakes them: to better understand and protect trees. Powers brings together an electrocuted co-ed, a wood carver with the last surviving American chestnut tree on his farm, a high-powered businesswoman, a homeless man and others as they edge ever closer to the old-growth redwoods, doing what they can to keep the chainsaws and loggers at bay. It’s a fast and fascinating read, and you’ll learn more about trees than you ever dreamed. —JA

New York Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
A New York Times Notable, Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018

Amazon review.

About TreeStewards

TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, are trained volunteers who work to protect, preserve, and enhance urban tree canopy through public education and volunteer activities such as planting, pruning, and caring for trees.
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