Book: Northwest Trees

An updated edition of the 1977 original, Northwest Trees (Mountaineers Books, $19) is a beautiful and meticulously illustrated book profiling more than 60 species of native trees in southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, southwestern Alberta, most of Idaho, Yellowstone, and western Montana. Every profile starts with an illustration and includes a description of where the tree grows, what it looks like, its ecological role, and its role in human history. This sounds like a typical botany guide, but Northwest Trees goes a step further and explains the whys—why certain trees are where they are, why certain species are special, and why human activities such as logging affect them.

Sadly, the book is not organized by state, nor is there anything in the index that let us narrow down the list of trees native to the Treasure State. But this leaves much to serendipity: you might learn that the grand fir and white fir are better for paper than a subalpine fir, for example, or how to distinguish male cottonwoods from female cottonwoods. The ponderosa pine profile is particularly interesting and relevant, reminding us of just how tough the Montana landscape is—the stump of a tree felled in 1906 near Hamilton showed scars from a whopping 31 forest fires between 1545 and 1883.