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THE NATURE OF OAKS by Douglas W. Tallamy


The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees

by Douglas W. Tallamy

Pub Date: March 30th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-64326-044-0
Publisher: Timber

Affectionate yet scientifically rich look at an essential ingredient of the environment.

When he and his family moved to a 10-acre spread in southeastern Pennsylvania, writes Tallamy, he noted that after decades of hay mowing, there were just a few trees and a concomitant shortage of wildlife. Enter the oak, 500-odd species of which cover the world, trees that “produce enormous root systems over their lifetimes, and these help make them champions when it comes to soil stabilization, carbon sequestration, and watershed management.” Humans need as much help as they can get in such matters, but that doesn’t keep them from felling vast forests of oaks for pasturage, fuel, and other uses. In this guided tour of a year in the life of the oaks around him, Tallamy enumerates all the useful and interesting work that they do. Homeowners, for instance, are likely to cut down oaks on their property because they’re such messy trees, leaving great piles of leaves underneath in season. Yet those leaves form an ecosystem of their own, sheltering insects, seeds, fungi, mycorrhizae, and other desirable things. When they are in mast, oak trees provide “unlimited food for acorn predators,” and oak litter helps battle invasive species on forest floors, such as Japanese stiltgrass. As the author makes clear, preserving oaks and other native tree species is an essential act in supporting migratory bird species, for those tree species, to varying degrees, produce great populations of caterpillars on which the birds feed. “Any birder worth her salt already knows where to look for spring migrants,” he exults, “look to the oaks!” There’s a biology textbook packed away inside these graceful, appreciative essays, full of notes on marcescence, the mating habits of katydids, and the urgent work of saving oaks, once “ancient cornerstones of ecosystems throughout the United States”—and indeed the world.

A welcome addition to any tree hugger’s library.