Fresh from the Woods

The 14th edition of “Forest Trees of Maine” was recently published by the Maine Forest Service. It contains a wealth of information about woody plants that grow in Maine.

‘Possibly … money well spent’

‘Forest Trees of Maine’ celebrates 100th anniversary in 2008

By Andrew Kekacs

A century after it was first published, “Forest Trees of Maine” remains an outstanding resource for people who want to learn more about the Maine Woods.

The slim volume was first released in 1908 by what was then called the Maine Forestry Department. It was an immediate hit.

“For the ‘Forest Trees of Maine’ there has been a large and constant demand, which will very soon exhaust the edition,” wrote Forest Commissioner Edgar Ring in a 1910 report to the  Legislature. “Possibly, in order to meet the demands for this pamphlet, it will be considered wise and money well spent to issue another edition.”

The Legislature agreed. New editions of the booklet have appeared about every seven years.

To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of “Forest Trees of Maine,” the Maine Forest Service recently released an expanded 14th edition. It offers a wealth of information about trees and woody shrubs that grow in the state (and in much of the Northeast and the Maritime Provinces of Canada.)

“Forest Trees of Maine” is no less a classic of Maine writing than “Come Spring” or “We Took to the Woods.” The unheralded state employees who wrote and revised the pocket-sized volume over the last century achieved what most authors only dream about: A publication that is as comfortable on a coffee table at camp as it is in a seventh-grade classroom or in the personal library of a forest industry executive, and one that remains readable decades after it was written. It is remarkably well done.

The idea for a centennial edition was broached in late 2006 by Dan Jacobs, MFS district forester in Island Falls. Keith Kanoti, water resources forester in Augusta, led a nine-member committee that oversaw production of the latest volume.

Kanoti also did all of the photography for the revision. For the first time, readers can see Maine’s woody plants not only in traditional, black-and-white line drawings, but in full-color photographs. The new edition offers a number of other improvements, including range maps; a winter key; historic photos; and an illustrated glossary.

As always, white pine is the first species in “Forest Trees of Maine.”

“Eastern white pine has been an important tree for the people of what is now the State of Maine for hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” states the book. “… The availability and high quality of white pine lumber has played an important part in the development and economy of Maine since 1605, when Capt. George Weymouth of the British Royal Navy collected samples here and brought them back to England for display. The shortage of ship masts in Europe led to England’s Broad Arrow Policy in 1691, whereby pines 24 inches or more in diameter within three miles of water were blazed with the mark of the broad arrow; such trees to be reserved for use in the Royal Navy.”

The section goes on to discuss the bark, leaves and cones of white pine, along with the wood and its uses. For most species, there are several photos, a range map and measurements of the state’s largest known specimen.

The book discusses 78 types of woody plants, from well-known and commercially important trees like red oak and balsam fir to relatively rare species such as mountain laurel and black tupelo.

There are also sections that suggest the changes in Maine’s manufacturing base over the last century. Consider the following excerpt from the section on paper birch:

“The tree gets the name of ‘paper birch’ from how the bark was used by early settlers, and that of ‘canoe birch’ because the bark was used to make canoes … Historically, paper birch was one of the most valuable tree species in Maine. In the past, the wood was use to make shoe pegs (used instead of nails in the manufacture of shoes) as well as a number of products that used to be made in Maine but are now manufactured offshore. These include clothespins, yarn spools, toothpicks, paper roll plugs and plywood.”

A table illustrates some of the other changes that have occurred in the state since 1908. Among them:

                            1908           2008

Forested area (%)       75               89

Population           694,466     1,274,923

Harvest volume

   (in cords)       2,879,807    6,742,351

Stumpage price

   (spruce/MBF)       $5.49       $135.00

Forestry students

  at UMaine                 31              50

Total students

   at UMaine               884       11,800

“Forest Trees of Maine” has a foreword by David Field, professor emeritus of forestry at the University of Maine. The book also provides basic information about tree parts and how they function; gives precautions regarding ticks and poisonous plants, and offers a brief explanation of fall color changes.

“I’m very pleased with the quality of the 100th anniversary edition of ‘Forest Trees of Maine,'” said Donald Mansius, director of forest policy and management at Maine Forest Service. “The team that created it did an outstanding job. Our signature publication should be in the collection of anyone who cares about Maine’s forests.”

You can view sections of the publication, or download the entire book, for free at You can also order copies online, or by contacting the Maine Forest Service at (207) 287-2791. The price for the print version is $15.

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