Arboriculture books

If you want to get into playing with trees and you can only read one book, read Dr. Alex Shigo’s A New Tree Biology. You might also want to check out his Tree Pruning: A Worldwide Photo Guide.

The study of trees and their lives and problems is very diverse. The rock-bottom base is Botany, the study of the lives of plants. A good general text is Biology of Plants, by Peter Raven and others, now in its eighth edition. Peter Raven has been a long-time director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, one of the world’s great centres for botanical research and an American brother to Kew Gardens in London, England.

Tree identification is key. Your whole memory file on each tree starts with its correct identification. There are many physical characteristics people use for tree ID; my personal favourite is bark. You will need the leaf, the bud, and the form, but bark is always there for you. The bark pattern of each species is different. Learn the bark and you learn the tree.

Several texts I like for ID are:

Trees and Shrubs of Alberta (Kathleen Wilkinson)
Regionally complete, excellent pictures.
Trees & Shrubs for the Northern Plains (Donald G. Hoag)
These drawing of Buds, etc. are beautiful.
Trees in Canada (John Laird Farrar)
A classic essential.
Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Michael A. Dirr)
The big book, covers North America.

Insect and disease studies are next. In Alberta, we are given a bit of a break in the number of species, at least when compared to British Columbia. That said, there is still a lot to know. A good start are the publications of the Northern Forestry Centre:

Tree and Shrub Insects of the Prairie Provinces (W.G.H. Ives and H.R.Wong)
Concise colour photos in abundance make this an excellent reference.
Forest Tree Diseases of the Prairie Provinces (Y. Hiratsuka)
A companion volume to the one above.

Three large volumes from Cornell University Press are the industry standard references:

Diseases of Trees and Shrubs (Sinclair, Lyon, and Johnson)
Insects that Feed on Trees and Shrubs (Johnson and Lyon)
Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada ( L.H. Bailey, Ethel Zoe Bailey)

Here's a little book focused on the prairies:

The Prairie Gardener’s Book of Bugs (Nora Bryan and Ruth Staal)

For amazing colour photos of the inside workings of trees, including some greatly magnified, see Tree Anatomy, by Dr. Alex Shigo.

This list is nothing more than a skeleton, but every book listed here is important, and most are considered standard references.