Is that a spruce? Well, maybe it’s a fir? Looks like a pine to me!…. Have you ever been involved in a conversation like this? Then you should look into the book Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada by Elray Nixon.
Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada by Elray S. Nixon, illustrated by Bruce Lyndon Cunningham, should be an excellent reference for amateur naturalists, students beginning in dendrology and plant taxonomy, and those who are just wanting to identify the gymnosperms in Texas and the rest of the U.S. and Canada. This manual presents 6 Families (Taxaceae, Pinaceae, Cupressaceae, Ephedraceae, Zamiaceae, and Ginkgoaceae, 20 Genera and 115 species of gymnosperms (naked seed plants). Dichotomous keys are provided to the Divisions, Families, Genera and species. More helpful information is presented in the Introduction, distribution maps, and a glossary of terms.
A short discussion of each species in the key includes scientific names, common names, range description, commercial uses of the plant and other general information. For each species, there is a full page of illustrations that include the entire plant, leaves, pollen cones, seed cones (for conifers), bark, leaf margins and branchlets. Also included are size ranges for these items. A small range map is an inset. All of these illustrations are drawings in full color by Bruce Cunningham. Bruce’s art provides both the very detailed information for identification and the beauty that puts this book in a class by itself. His illustrations also fill the Introduction and the Glossary.
At first glance, the book may seem daunting to a beginner, but the keys are straightforward and the glossary helps with the terms used. A few trial runs should make the beginner feel more at ease using the manual. Then the illustrations confirm the identification. This is another very useful book from the Nixon/Cunningham team, and belongs in your library.