Five Books Every Landowner Should Read

It’s always a fun task to get to review a lot of books on environmental topics and make some recommendations to my readers.

As winter begins to give way to the first hints of spring, there is still time to settle down with a good book that could inspire some upcoming 2023 property management projects. Here are a few reading suggestions from some experienced Wisconsin conservationists that you might find inspirational. You might even decide to tuck one of these titles into a pocket as you head outdoors.

Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest 

University of Wisconsin Press, 2005

By Elizabeth Czarapata

We can all use a hand when confronting invasive plants on our property. Mary Bartkowiak, Forest Invasive Plant Coordinator for the Wisconsin DNR, has an old favorite to recommend that stands the test of time — Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. “Although it is rather old, it is a good book with details about many invasive plants and how they can be controlled. I would say it was pretty forward-thinking when was first published.”

Author Elizabeth Czarapata, former director of the Weed-Out Program of The Park People of Milwaukee County and winner of the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species 2005 Invader Crusader Award, wrote the book to be an essential resource for land managers, property owners, farmers, and foresters. The information was reviewed by a number of invasive plant experts, including the Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources and the UW-Madison Arboretum.

This guide includes more than 250 color photos to help identify invasive trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and sedges, including both herbaceous and aquatic plants.

Of course, newly invasive plants continue to appear in Wisconsin, and Bartkowiak suggests augmenting the book with info on the latest invaders online using the Midwest Invasive Plant Network website and Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative.

Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions

USDA Forest Service, 2011

By Michael E. Ostry, Neil A. Anderson, and Joseph G. O’Brien

 Would you like to grab a good field guide and go searching for something more fun like fungi? “I have a field-sized copy and find it both useful and accessible,” says Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist. “It describes the ecosystem where you are likely to find each particular species. For example, there is a section for Aspen and Birch ecosystems that we find in Northern Wisconsin and the types of fungi likely to be there. When you are out in the field, you can start your inquiry on what are the dominant tree species around you and home in on which fungus you might be looking at.”

“It has really good photos and straight-forward descriptions, as well as the season of fruiting, and its ecosystem function —  saprophytes are ones that use enzymes to digest wood (basically living on dead material) as opposed to the mycorrhizae that physically link in with tree root systems and engage in a mutualistic relationship,” says Cigan. “This book is good both for experts and beginners who want to do some fungal identification.”

You can order it from your favorite bookstore or download a copy from the USDA

You can read about the other three books: Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History; Climate Change Field Guide for Southern and Northern Wisconsin Forests: Site-level considerations and adaptation; and A Sand County Almanac in My Wisconsin Woods here.

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