Here are some personal favourite tree and shrub books found over years of looking.

1.1  A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America, by Donald Culross Peattie, 1991.

51SXKxB2bpL._AA160_This book is not a cut-and-dried reference. Yes it provides a description of each tree, its range, its preferred habitat, and its historical use by Native Americans and European settlers. There are occasional line drawings only, no photos. But the author is a poet at heart, and it is his lyrical renderings of the essence and character of each tree that makes this book a classic and a pleasure to read.  It is now out of print, but available used on Amazon.  An abridged version of his combined Eastern/Central and Western natural histories is in reprint.

1.2  The Tree Identification Book, by George W. Symonds, 1973.

51JFRIIcKAL._AA160_A very thorough identification guide with black and white photos of leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, bark, needles, and cones for common trees in North America. The first half is organized by physical characteristic (e.g. leaf, bark, etc); the second half is organized by tree type. It is an excellent guide for winter identification.


1.3  The Shrub Identification Book, by George W. Symonds, 1973.

51aS5oC3KOL._AA160_A companion to Symonds’ Tree Identification book, this book has the more challenging task of providing detailed identification keys for the more numerous shrubs of the central/ northeastern US and Ontario. Black and white, mostly actual size photos are provided for the following keys: Thorns/prickles etc, Leaves, Flowers, Fruit, Twigs, and Bark. The second half of the book then brings it all together by species in its Master Pages. This is truly a definitive reference for the serious field naturalist.

1.4 Trees of Eastern North America, Princeton Field Guide, by Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle, and Richard Spellenberg, 2014.

A comprehensive, if hefty, field guide to a 825 species of trees, and some shrubs, most of them relevant to the Ottawa area.  The colour drawings could be better.  The “Similar Species” notes are helpful.




1.5  Growing Trees from Seed, by Henry Koch, 2008.

This is the definitive book for describing how to collect, process, store, and start seeds for individual species.  Written by the late Henry Koch, interpretive horticulturalist at the University of Guelph’s Arboretum, the book covers woody species that grow in southern and eastern Ontario, including many shrubs and vines.  Koch’s information about each species – range, habitat, flowering season, and similar non-natives – comes from deep knowledge.  Highly recommended.


1.6 Ontario’s Old-Growth Forests:  A Guidebook Complete with History, Ecology, and Maps, by Mike Henry and Peter Quinby, 2019 (2nd edition).

Recently reissued with updated information and new forest locations, this book contains many old photos that show how diminished our forests today are compared to the past.  Visit the authors’ web site Ancient Forest Exploration and Research for the latest information, their blog, and maps.


1.7  Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas Tallamy, 2009.


Highly recommended! This book explains why it is so important to plant native species in our gardens, and not alien, imported cultivars. Native species are more nutritious and chemically suited to feeding native insects, which in turn feed birds, reptiles, frogs, and then up the food chain. Most insects cannot eat alien plants and hence the biodiversity in the suburban garden is lost. Although written for the author’s location in the mid-Atlantic states, most of the plant examples are relevant to eastern Ontario and there is compiled list of native plants for the northeastern US. There are also extensive tables in the appendices showing which native plants attract/feed which insects and their larvae – butterflies, moths, etc.

1.8  A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada, by George A. Petrides, 1973.

51Y1DvyjBlL._AA160_-2Like all Peterson Field Guides, this is a thorough treatment of the identification of trees and shrubs and it’s compact for taking with you in the field. It includes detailed recognition descriptions and the drawings compare similar species. However, like all Peterson Field Guides it has the irritating layout of separating the species descriptions from the drawings, making you constantly leaf back and forth.

1.9  Native Plants of the Northeast:  A Guide For Gardening and Conservation, by Donald J. Leopold, 2006.


Although written for the northeastern US, the author includes range information for Canada.  The book provides a short natural history of the forest types across North America, and species descriptions for native ferns, grasses, wildflowers, vines, shrubs, and trees.  Each description includes:  zone range, soils, light requirements, physical attributes, seed propagation, notes, and natural range.  The notes are of particular value, providing more information about the value of the species and showcases the author’s knowledge and love of native plants.  All the many photos are colour.  The only quibble is that the tree and shrub photos are usually of the flowers or leaves and not of the plant as a whole.  Highly recommended.

1.10  Earth, Water, Fire:  An Ecological Profile of Lanark County, by Dr. Paul A. Keddy, 1999.


See the description provided by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists Club and sources where this book can be found.



Other References

2.1  Extension Note:  A Forest History of Eastern Ontario.

A more in-depth version of this extension note can be bought from the Eastern Ontario Model Forest:  Information Report No. 1:  A Forest History of Eastern Ontario, by Cathy Keddy, 1993.

2.2  Appendix A – Vascular Plants of the City of Ottawa, with the Identification of Species, Daniel Brunton,  for the City of Ottawa, Urban Natural Areas Environmental Evaluation Study, 2005.  This comprehensive document lists all of the known vascular plants with City of Ottawa boundaries and identifies those of regional significance.  Some information has been superseded by new nomenclature and by citizen science (iNaturalist).

2.3  Plants of Lanark County, by David White, 2016.  An going project by retired biologist David White, this reflects his latest knowledge of plant discoveries in one of our most botanically diverse areas in Eastern Ontario.