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Thursday, April 29, 2004 04:55 am

Just in time for Arbor Day

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Native Trees for North American Landscapes By Guy Sternberg with Jim Wilson, Timber Press, 550 pages, $59.95.

Arbor Day is Friday, April 30, and the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) is offering you a deal. You can join the Foundation and for $10 receive either 10 flowering trees or 10 pine trees. Even though these "trees" are foot-tall sprouts, it's still a pretty sweet offer.

After you've read (or flipped through) Native Trees for North American Landscapes by Guy Sternberg with Jim Wilson, you may just be inspired to join the Arbor Day folks. Sternberg and Wilson have traipsed all over the country studying trees and their habitats and have put together a definitive text on American trees. From palmettos to pawpaws and Fagus grandiflora (American beech) to Quercus virginiana (live oak), these guys have the subject covered.

At 550 pages, their book is more of a reference work than slick coffee table book, but it's designed to be user-friendly. It is loaded with color photographs of specimen trees and forests, and the close-up photos of leaves, bark, and fruit are lovely.

Sternberg is a landscape architect, a certified arborist, first president of the International Oak Society, and one of the most respected authorities on trees in the country. In fact, Sternberg and his wife, Edie, live within their own arboretum near New Salem State Park, Starhill Forest Arboretum, which they began creating in 1976.

Wilson is a veteran horticulturist and garden writer, familiar to viewers of public television as the former co-host of the Victory Garden series on PBS. Sternberg and Wilson co-authored Landscaping with Native Trees in 1995.

The book includes a Web site directory of tree and plant sources, a helpful glossary for those of us who don't know a panicle from a petiole, and four-page bibliography. Greenview Nursery, Lincoln Memorial Garden, and Barnes & Noble carry the book

Sternberg reminds us that the Native Plant Society is offering some 5,000 plants and trees at its annual sale from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Washington Park Botanical Garden. He can be reached at strhlfrst@aol.com.

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