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Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide Paperback – February 19, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Del Tredici approaches his subject with a scientist's eye for detail, yet makes it very readable. His book honors 158 herbs that manage to flourish in wayward places. . . . Del Tredici introduces these innovative species as immigrants with histories of their own, adapting to roadsides and abandoned lots. Even pushy plants do have virtues, assisting with oxygen production, carbon storage, temperature reduction, erosion control, and wildlife food and habitat."―American Herb Association Quarterly (July 2011)

"Del Tredici's book will be a great resource for those working on greening our industrial landscapes . . . . I can envision creative park managers, urban planners, DIY urban restorationists, permaculture practitioners, neighborhood activists, and other running to this field guide to get ideas for free, readily available seed mixes for speeding up the greening of landfills, abandoned yards, decaying asphalt, and unused railroad lines."―Judy Kingsbury, Ecological Restoration (March/June 2011)

"Peter Del Tredici has written one of those rare books that completely overturns the way you look at the landscape―in this case, the landscape of the city's derelict cracks and corners, which in his hands becomes a place of unusual interest, value, and beauty. Though ostensibly a field guide, this book is much more than that―it offers a deep and wise reconsideration of our most cherished ideas about nature. You will never look at an 'invasive species' the same way again."―Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore's Dilemma

"I grew up in the heart of the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles basin and developed an interest in plants while I was in high school. Unfortunately, I did not have a resource to identify and understand the naturalized and weedy plants of my environment. I would have found such a book a fabulous resource then and today and would certainly recommend it to those interesting in the magnificence of nature, yet living in urban environments. This is a great resource for urbanites to experience the fascination, complexity, and beauty of the plants that grow around them."―Joseph M. DiTomaso, coauthor of Weeds of the Northeast and author of Weeds of California and Other Western States and Aquatic and Riparian Weeds of the West

"Both experienced and novice users will find Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast to be an excellent tool for plant identification. Each species is presented with user-friendly descriptions and photographs of important vegetative structures as well as photographs of the species within the urban landscape. This work contains a thought provoking introduction to urban plant communities that will serve as an entry point for investigation by scholars and practitioners alike. To some, these species may stand as symptoms of environmental degradation, but Del Tredici documents the case that the urban plant community has been evolving since the first human civilizations and that it is part of a sustainable solution to vegetation management problems in the urban landscape. Recognition is the first step toward acceptance. Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast is the first field guide to acknowledge the urban plant community around us and it challenges us to judge the plants on their virtues rather than by their place of origin. This work will be the foundation for those who wish to evaluate plant communities by their function and sustainability rather than by nativity alone. We cannot go back and undo the edaphic changes and disturbance regimes that exist in our urban environments. Why should we? Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast will lead us forward."―Richard Uva, coauthor of Weeds of the Northeast

"Peter Del Tredici provides a unique perspective on the plants we find in our increasingly urbanized environment of the twenty-first century. Rather than dismissing the nonnative plant species that have been introduced into our city habitats, he portrays them as immigrants with a history and life of their own adapting to roadsides and abandoned parking lots. Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast is a must-read if we are to understand and appreciate the world's exotic biodiversity."―W. John Kress, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

About the Author

Peter Del Tredici is Senior Research Scientist at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is author of A Giant Among the Dwarfs. He has been awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society

Steward T. A. Pickett is a Plant Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Comstock Publishing Associates; 1 edition (February 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801474582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801474583
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Del Tredici has belled the cat: instead of belaboring whether plants are native or invasive, good or evil, Del Tredici has taken the unexpected leap of looking at urban plants scientifically. With his long experience of plant and habitat management, he has asked the simplest and most elegant of questions about the functionality of each neglected "weed" familiar only to urban botanists: what really are the native plants of urban landscapes, and how can we evaluate their ecological roles and functionality in those settings.

The first twentyfive pages of this book should be mandatory reading for all American landscapers--henceforth they will be for all of my classes. Del Tredici explains how European studies for years have focused on plant associations, degree of disturbance and on tracing historical introductions, along with their co-evolution with human societies. Americans tend refer to them all as "aliens".

Del Tredici has studied for many years how American urban vegetation could be reasonably sorted into useful types, based on the factors which distinguish urban from wild ecology: degree of disturbance, of annual human maintenance effort, and of similarity to floristic patterns in nearby undisturbed areas. He very sensibly suggests three groups based on these studies: remnants of the original flora, managed "gardens" where annual effort maintains a suite of landscaped plantings, and highly disturbed areas, where nutrient and water budgets are neglected and his volunteers provide unmanaged greenery at no societal cost.

Nearly a thousand of his own photos showing characteristic views of these plants make identification for laymen very easy. One is tempted to say Peter Del Tredici has in one book elevated these organisms from weeds to urban heroes.
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I concur with the other reviewers that Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast finally gives credence to the diverse ecology of urban plant / habitats. Native / non - native has always been a slippery slope in classifying plants in urban environments - and even in so called "natural" environments. This is where these plants thrive, are often beautiful, provide wildlife habitat and more often than not, such as with Phragmites, are a mirror of our role in shaping the environment. Wild urban plants contribute to the wonderful diversity of urban life.

This is an well-written, clearly illustrated and unbiased book helping in the identification of these often curious and always tenacious plants.
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This is one of, if not the most difinitive books for plant ID in an urban setting. I reccomend this to all Master Gardeners out there.
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Peter was my first real teacher of natural history some forty years ago when he was a roommate of my girlfriend in an old mill house in the town of Harvard Massachusetts. It is a joy to see his field guide to wild plant life in urban New England. In those days Peter would have me collecting different maple leaves to understand their variation in appearance. Later when I taught environmental history, I would show my students pictures of ailanthus trees tearing apart chainlink fences in the city, akin to the picture on the cover of Peter's book. I am also glad to see Peter mention Frank Egler whose ideas of succession we read in a pirated manuscript because Egler was so unacceptable to the profession of the day.

This is a great book. I am a bit sorry I moved to California 15 years ago when I retired because I would take Peter's book and meander around streets I knew so well identifying those plants which were unfamiliar to me. I remember meandering the woods of exurban Boston with Peter and his response to people back home in California where he had grown up who questioned his move east: In California everywhere you look someone will soon be living there; whereas in New England someone had lived there and it was now woods. Sometime later flying over my house in southern New Hampshire I couldn't find it for all the trees. I would take my students into the woods of the University and we would look at the boundary between the native secondary growth there and the wild urban landscape parts of the school.

The introduction to Peter's book is excellent, laying out a corrective understanding of the role of wild urban plants.
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Oh my gods, this book is so fabulous. If you live in an urban area in the northeastern US and have even the slightest interest in nature/plants, you should get this book. It's written as a field guide for the amateur plant-identifier, with plenty of pictures and notes about distinguishing closely related species. It's not as comprehensive as some specialist field guides, but that's not really the purpose of this book. Each species is described in detail with several photos and notes on origin, role in urban ecology, cultural/medicinal significance, etc etc.

If you feel a lack of "nature" in your urban space, pick up this book and open your eyes to the nature that lives in your sidewalk cracks. I seriously can't recommend this book highly enough. I would give it six stars if I could.
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