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  How to identify trees in Southern Africa©2007 /  Braam van Wyk & Piet van Wyk


cyphostemma currorii:  tree with inflorescences

Erythrina lysistemon: tree

Acacia tortilis subsp. heteracantha: tree



Tree identification is generally perceived as difficult, all the more so in a botanically diverse region such as southern Africa, where about 2 100 species occur naturally, not to mention several hundreds more that have been introduced from elsewhere in the world. 

How to Identify Trees in Southern Africa - a first of its kind for the region - provides the background knowledge essential for tree identification.  The book promotes an approach that will equip readers to use any field guide to trees with greater ease and more confidence.  Starting with the basics of plant form, it systematically uncovers the structure of trees to enable a clear understanding of what to look for when trying to identify an unknown tree.

The book is divided into two parts: Part One, well-supported with colour illustrations and photographs, describes the various parts of a tree and their significance for identification.  Part Two features a key to 43 tree groups based on easy-to-observe stem and leaf features. As a first step towards identification, the group-recognition approach has proved to be more helpful to the layperson than the often-used formal botanical families.  An icon is used to depict the principal characters of a group, thus making it easier for the beginner to record and conceptualize tree diversity.  Group accounts present explanatory notes on group characters and tips on species identification.  A selection of tree species is described and illustrated, and a list of all the southern African plant families represented in each group is supplied (greater coverage of species is featured in the authors' Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa, 1997)

Something about the authors:

Braam van Wyk gained a master's degree in Botany from Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.  He later joined the teaching staff of, and was awarded a doctorate by, the University of Pretoria, where he is currently Professor of Botany and Curator of the H.G.W.J. Schweickerdt Herbarium.  An authority on the classification of trees, he is the author of numerous scientific articles, papers and books including Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Witwatersrand & Pretoria Region (Struik, 1988) and Field Guide to trees of Southern Africa (Struik, 1997)

Piet van Wyk (1931-2006)no relation, but also a graduate of Potchefstroom University, worked as a research biologist at the Kruger National Park prior to his retirement in 1991.  In that year he was awarded a Chancellor's medal by the University of Pretoria and an honorary doctorate from Unisa, in recognition of his contributions to botany, nature conservation and environmental education in southern Africa.  An excellent photographer, Piet's extensive travels throughout southern Africa enabled him to build up the largest collection of photographs of native trees. 


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