Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide

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Characterized by an abundance of pavement, reflected heat, polluted air and contaminated soil, our cities and towns may seem harsh and unwelcoming to vegetation. However, there are a number of plants that manage to grow spontaneously in sidewalk cracks and roadside meridians, flourish along chain-link fences and railroad tracks, line the banks of streams and rivers, and emerge in the midst of landscape plantings and trampled lawns. On their own and free of charge, these plants provide ecological services including temperature reduction, oxygen production, carbon storage, food and habitat for wildlife, pollution mitigation, and erosion control on slopes. Around the world, wild plants help to make urban environments more habitable for people.

Peter Del Tredici's lushly illustrated field guide to wild urban plants of the northeastern United States is the first of its kind. While it covers the area bounded by Montreal, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Detroit, it is broadly applicable to temperate urban environments across North America. The book covers 222 species that flourish without human assistance or approval. Rather than vilifying such plants as weeds, Del Tredici stresses that it is important to notice, recognize, and appreciate their contribution to the quality of urban life. Indeed their very toughness in the face of heat islands, elevated levels of carbon dioxide and ubiquitous contamination is indicative of the important role they have to play in helping humans adapt to the challenges presented by urbanization, globalization and climate change.

The species accounts—158 main entries plus 64 secondary species-feature descriptive information including scientific name and taxonomic authority, common names, botanical family, life form, place of origin, and identification features. Del Tredici focuses especially on their habitat preferences, environmental functions, and cultural significance. Each entry is accompanied by original full-color photographs by the author which show the plants' characteristics and growth forms in their typical habitats. Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast will help readers learn to see these plants-the natural vegetation of the urban environment-with fresh appreciation and understanding.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Del Tredici approaches his subject with a scientist's eye for detail, yet makes it very readable. His book honors 158 herbs that manage to flourish in wayward places. . . . Del Tredici introduces these innovative species as immigrants with histories of their own, adapting to roadsides and abandoned lots. Even pushy plants do have virtues, assisting with oxygen production, carbon storage, temperature reduction, erosion control, and wildlife food and habitat."—American Herb Association Quarterly (July 2011)

"Del Tredici's book will be a great resource for those working on greening our industrial landscapes . . . . I can envision creative park managers, urban planners, DIY urban restorationists, permaculture practitioners, neighborhood activists, and other running to this field guide to get ideas for free, readily available seed mixes for speeding up the greening of landfills, abandoned yards, decaying asphalt, and unused railroad lines."—Judy Kingsbury, Ecological Restoration (March/June 2011)

"Peter Del Tredici has written one of those rare books that completely overturns the way you look at the landscape—in this case, the landscape of the city's derelict cracks and corners, which in his hands becomes a place of unusual interest, value, and beauty. Though ostensibly a field guide, this book is much more than that—it offers a deep and wise reconsideration of our most cherished ideas about nature. You will never look at an 'invasive species' the same way again."—Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore's Dilemma

"I grew up in the heart of the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles basin and developed an interest in plants while I was in high school. Unfortunately, I did not have a resource to identify and understand the naturalized and weedy plants of my environment. I would have found such a book a fabulous resource then and today and would certainly recommend it to those interesting in the magnificence of nature, yet living in urban environments. This is a great resource for urbanites to experience the fascination, complexity, and beauty of the plants that grow around them."—Joseph M. DiTomaso, coauthor of Weeds of the Northeast and author of Weeds of California and Other Western States and Aquatic and Riparian Weeds of the West

"Both experienced and novice users will find Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast to be an excellent tool for plant identification. Each species is presented with user-friendly descriptions and photographs of important vegetative structures as well as photographs of the species within the urban landscape. This work contains a thought provoking introduction to urban plant communities that will serve as an entry point for investigation by scholars and practitioners alike. To some, these species may stand as symptoms of environmental degradation, but Del Tredici documents the case that the urban plant community has been evolving since the first human civilizations and that it is part of a sustainable solution to vegetation management problems in the urban landscape. Recognition is the first step toward acceptance. Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast is the first field guide to acknowledge the urban plant community around us and it challenges us to judge the plants on their virtues rather than by their place of origin. This work will be the foundation for those who wish to evaluate plant communities by their function and sustainability rather than by nativity alone. We cannot go back and undo the edaphic changes and disturbance regimes that exist in our urban environments. Why should we? Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast will lead us forward."—Richard Uva, coauthor of Weeds of the Northeast

"Peter Del Tredici provides a unique perspective on the plants we find in our increasingly urbanized environment of the twenty-first century. Rather than dismissing the nonnative plant species that have been introduced into our city habitats, he portrays them as immigrants with a history and life of their own adapting to roadsides and abandoned parking lots. Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast is a must-read if we are to understand and appreciate the world's exotic biodiversity."—W. John Kress, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801474583
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010
  • Pages: 389
  • Sales rank: 409,793
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Del Tredici is Senior Research Scientist at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is author of A Giant Among the Dwarfs. He has been awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society

Steward T. A. Pickett is a Plant Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Steward T. A. Pickett

Dryopteridaceae (Woodfern Family)
Dennstaedtiaceae (Brackenfern Family), 26

Equisetaceae (Horsetail Family)

Taxaceae (Yew Family)

Aceraceae (Maple Family)
Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family)
Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)
Betulaceae (Birch Family)
Bignoniaceae (Trumpet Creeper Family)
Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)
Celastraceae (Stafftree Family)
Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)
Fabaceae = Leguminosae (Pea Family)
Fagaceae (Beech Family)
Moraceae (Mulberry Family)
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Rutaceae (Rue Family)
Salicaceae (Willow Family)
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)
Simaroubaceae (Quassia Family)
Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
Ulmaceae (Elm Family)
Vitaceae (Grape Family)

Aizoaceae (Carpetweed Family)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
Apiaceae = Umbelliferue (Carrot Family)
Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)
Asteraceae = Compositae (Aster Family)
Balsaminaceae (Touch-me-not Family)
Brassicaceae = Cruciferae (Mustard Family)
Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)
Clnsiaceae (Mangosteen Family)
Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family)
Cucurbitaceae (Gourd Family)
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)
Fabaceae = Leguminosae (Pea Family)
Lamiaceae = Labiatae (Mint Family)
Lythraceae (Loosestrife Family)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
Onagraceae (Evening Primrose Family)
Oxalidaceae (Woodsorrel Family)
Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)
Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed Family)
Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)
Polygonaceae (Smartweed Family)
Portulacaceae (Purslane Family)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Rubiaceae (Madder Family)
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)
Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
Cannabaceae (Hemp Family)
Urticaceae (Nettle Family)
Violaceae (Violet Family)

Commelinaceae (Spiderwort Family)
Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)
Iridaceae (Iris Family)
Juncaceae (Rush Family)
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
Poaceae = Gramineae (Grass Family)
Typhaceae (Cattail Family)

I. Plants Covered in This Book That Are Included in Dioscorides' De Materia Medica
2. European Plants Listed by Josselyn as Growing Spontaneously in New England in the Seventeenth Century
3. Shade-Tolerance Ratings of the 32 Trees Covered in This Book
4. Species Suitable for a Cosmopolitan Urban Meadow
5. Key Characteristics of Important Plant Families


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