"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 history and past daily life that no textbook could ever illuminate so vividly.
Here you'll learn about everything from how a species was discovered to the part it played in our country’s history. Pioneers often stabled an animal in the hollow heart of an old sycamore, and the whole family might live there until they could build a log cabin. The tuliptree, the tallest native hardwood, is easier to work than most softwood trees; Daniel Boone carved a sixty-foot canoe from one tree to carry his family from Kentucky into Spanish territory. In the days before the Revolution, the British and the colonists waged an undeclared war over New England's white pines, which made the best tall masts for fighting ships.
It's fascinating to learn about the commercial uses of various woods for paper, fine furniture, fence posts, matchsticks, house framing, airplane wings, and dozens of other preplastic uses. But we cannot read this book without the occasional lump in our throats. The American elm was still alive when Peattie wrote, but as we read his account today we can see what caused its demise. Audubon's portrait of a pair of loving passenger pigeons in an American beech is considered by many to be his greatest painting. It certainly touched the poet in Donald Culross Peattie as he depicted the extinction of the passenger pigeon when the beech forest was destroyed.
A Natural History of North American Trees gives us a picture of life in America from its earliest days to the middle of the last century. The information is always interesting, though often heartbreaking. While Peattie looks for the better side of man's nature, he reports sorrowfully on the greed and waste that have doomed so much of America's virgin forest.
About the Author
Donald Culross Peattie (18981964) was one of the most influential American nature writers of the 20th century. Peattie was born in Chicago and grew up in Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, which sparked his interest in the immense wonders of nature. He studied at the University of Chicago and Harvard University. After working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he decided to pursue a career as a writer. In 1925 he became a nature columnist for the Washington Star Newspaper and subsequently went on to pen more than twenty fiction and nonfiction books in the next five decades. Widely acclaimed and popular in his age, his legacy has been attributed as inspiring a modern age of nature writing.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mark R. Peattie xi Introduction by Verlyn Klinkenborg xv Acknowledgments xix
SEQUOIAS Giant Sequoia 1 Coast Redwood 12 PINES Eastern White 26 Western White 37 Sugar 46 Western Yellow 55 Pitch 64 Lodgepole 67 Jack 73 Monterey 76 Knobcone 81 SPRUCES Sitka 83 Red 90 White 94 Colorado Blue 97 Engelmann 99 WILLOWS Black 102 Pussy 105 FIRS Douglas 107 Alpine 119 Northern Balsam 123 Southern Balsam 125 Lowland 127 White 128 JUNIPERS Eastern Red Cedar 130 Common 135 Utah 137 Cherrystone 141 LARCHES Western 145 Tamarack 148 HEMLOCKS Eastern 151 Western 153 BEECH 159 WALNUTS Black 166 Butternut 170 HICKORIES Shagbark 173 Broom 178 Pecan 180 HORNBEAMS American 184 Eastern Ironwood 186 BIRCHES Paper 188 River 192 CHESTNUTS American 194 Chinquapin 196 OAKS Eastern White 197 Bur 203 Pin 207 Valley 208 Coast Live 215 CEDARS Alaska 222 Port Orford 224 Canoe 229 Incense 237 Monterey Cypress 240 ELMS White 246 Cork 254 Wahoo 256 TULIPTREE 258 SWEET GUM 263 MAGNOLIAS Cucumbertree 268 Umbrellatree 270 Mountain 272 SASSAFRAS 275 POPLARS Western Trembling Aspen 282 Balsam 289 Frémont Cottonwood 292 Eastern Cottonwood 296 DESERT PALM 299 HAWTHORNS Flat-topped 306 Red Haw 309 JOSHUATREE 312 WILD BLACK CHERRY 320 REDBUD 324 OREGON ALDER 327 LOCUSTS Sweet 331 Water 334 Black 335 Rose-flowering 341 YELLOWWOOD 344 SUMACS Staghorn 347 Poison 349 MAPLES Sugar 353 Silver 358 Red 361 Box Elder 363 CHRISTMAS HOLLY 367 SYCAMORES Eastern 370 Western 375 TUPELO 381 OSAGE ORANGE 385 AMERICAN LINDEN 390 CALIFORNIA LAUREL 393 DOGWOODS Flowering 397 Pacific 401 ASHES White 404 Black 410 MESQUITE 413 BUCKEYES Sweet 421 Ohio 424 California 426 SOURWOOD 429 DESERT IRONWOOD 432 ACACIAS Sweet 436 Desert Cat ’s - claw 439 ELEPHANT-TREE 441 SAGUARO CACTUS 445 COAST MADRONO 454 PERSIMMON 458 COMMON MANZANITA 465 DESERT SMOKETREE 468 DESERT CATALPA 471 Glossary 477 Index of Scientific Names 487 Index of Common Names 489