• The Good: Edu-tainment at its best, along with some great practical take-aways!
  • The Bad: Focused on the US, and too short to provide much regional specificity.
  • The Literary: Chapters organized by month

Oak trees are diverse, large, and long-lived, but they are also home to the insects and fungi and birds that form a intricate web of life. Doug Tallamy brings that wildlife home to our front yards, celebrating the mighty oak tree. Organized by month, you’ll see the seasonal cycle that holds the key to life, death, and renewal of woodpeckers, gawl wasps, and jewel caterpillars.

I planted my first two oak trees about five years ago, and there’s something so humbling about nurturing the infancy of a being that could live for hundreds of years. I picture the residential lot on which I live transformed by canopy and shade and even more birdsong. With Tallamy’s book at hand, I can’t wait to implement his practical tips for planting and caring for oaks, including planting seedlings as young as possible, planting trees closer together to better mimic natural forestation, and letting the fallen leaves mulch the tree throughout the year.

It’s easy to be wowed by the grand majestic oak tree, but this book also celebrates the dirty and squirmy life hidden within its branches, on the underside of its leaves, or just underneath the topsoil. The decline in global forestation has created a global decline in the diversity of insects, and now there are “3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were 50 years ago”. Compared to other trees, oaks host the most different kinds of wildlife, which doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on the sumac, but caring for an oak protects at least 500 species of caterpillars, among others.

Growing up in Texas, I always had a reverence for the magical and ancient live oaks, and Tallamy has revealed even more wonder from beneath their branches. Highly recommended for anyone interested in ecology and especially those who are thinking about planting a tree or two!