The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees
By Douglas W. Tallamy, Timber Press, Portland, OR, 2021
Oak trees. Who doesn’t love this bold and majestic tree species in our landscape. In addition to their beauty, oak trees contribute mightily to the health of our environment. To learn more about the mighty oaks, read Douglas Tallamy’s excellent book, ”The Nature of Oaks.”
Reviewed by Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener
Did you know that the seeds we religiously put out for the birds each winter provide scant nourishment for most species? A few, such as doves and finches, are granivores and do just fine. Most birds, however, are insectivores and depend on this supplementation even in winter. So where do all our avian friends get “three hots” in the cold months? Surprisingly, a substantial portion of their winter diet comes from caterpillar stages tucked into the bark of many tree species native to North America. Of these, the oaks are the most efficient in providing larval feed for our feathered friends.
Professor Douglas Tallamy provides an in-depth and fascinating account of the massive niche occupied by the various species of oak in the ecology of North America. Tallamy records the activities of the oaks and their many visitors from month to month throughout the year. In addition to being a winter-feeding station for birds, oaks serve numerous insect species as a refuge and feeding reservoir allowing them to complete their varied life cycles and integrate into the complex web of life in the North American woods. Their extensive root system stabilizes the soil and effectively combats erosion. In short, oaks support more life forms and interactions than any other tree species in our northern hemisphere. These giants form a keystone upon which so much of forest life depends.
In addition to demonstrating the vital role played by oaks in our ecology, the author provides a useful guide as to which species of oak do best in the varying environments of the US as well as helpful hints in planting and nurturing these invaluable species.