A Californianís Guide to the Trees among Us

Matt Ritter, 2011
Heyday Books, 6 x 9 inches, 192 pages, $18.95

There are times when an obsession is a good thing. Matt Ritter's obsession with California's cultivated trees is one of those times. Fascinated with trees since his childhood in Northern California's oak woodlands, he now makes trees a focus of his work as an associate professor in the biology department at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; in his spare time, he studies trees around the state, photographs them, and writes about them.

In A Californian's Guide to the Trees among Us, Ritter offers a wealth of information about the trees we see around us every day. In simple and lucid prose, and in combination with his own photographs, he teaches us how to look at a tree, how to identify it, how to use it, and, most importantly, how to enjoy it. His charts, graphs, and keys help us to identify and compare the trees we see in our communities, but it is his descriptions of the 150 species of common trees that enlighten us, just as the magnificent color photographs inspire us.

In his introduction to the book, Peter Raven, a native-born Californian and former head of the Missouri Botanical Garden, notes that the continuing growth in the state's population "has accelerated the desire to plant beautiful trees: they create space and context for our lives, and peace within us." With the publication of this book, Matt Ritter helps us all-amateur and professional alike-to grasp the treasure that is to be found in California's trees and to understand their immense importance in our lives.

Richard G. Turner, Jr
editor, Pacific Horticulture
San Francisco