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Ketchledge’s ‘Trees’ reprinted with added color

December 7, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH - News Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

One of the best books about trees in the Adirondacks has been reprinted.

This fall, the Adirondack Mountain Club issued a revised reprint of "Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks," which was originally published in 1967 and has been reprinted several times since.

The book was written by the late Ed Ketchledge, a respected naturalist and educator who died at the age of 85 on June 30, 2010, in his home in Potsdam.

Article Photos

This new edition of the book includes a biography, tribute to Ketchledge and a more vibrant color cover.

Ketchledge taught at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry from 1955 to 1985. As a botanist, he did extensive research on mosses in New York State and the alpine zone in the High Peaks. His work led to the creation of the Adirondack Summit Steward Program in 1990. The steward program, sponsored by ADK, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, is responsible for educating hikers about the rare alpine species atop High Peaks such as Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak.

Ketchledge also played a key role in a number of other conservation efforts, including helping to introduce the "carry in, carry out" philosophy to the Adirondacks in the 1960s.

Ketchledge himself was an ADK member and former chairman of ADK's Natural History Committee.

Two prime reasons he played a key role in these conservation efforts were his deep knowledge of the natural history of the Adirondack region and his ability to reach out to others as an educator. Both those skills come into play in this pocket-sized, 163-page book that contains more than 70 photographs.

The book is broken down into two main sections. The first chapters provide readers with an overview of the tree species in the High Peaks. It delves into the general history of trees, with chapters dedicated to the origins of the trees, their ties to the most recent glacial age, historical impacts on them from humans and the modern recovery of forests. The second section includes chapters on individual trees.

The first chapters provide an interesting and informative background that is written in a clear style that can be understood by the average reader.

"We know that the first plants to arrive and establish themselves in the Heart Lake watershed 12,000 years ago were tundra-dwelling species, including Dwarf Birch, Alpine Bilberry and Crowberry, and especially Mountain Alder, all four of which still persist on the nearest Alpine summit, Algonquin Peak," Ketchledge writes in the chapter called 'Origins.' "Most of the more boreal (northern) species soon moved on, but about two dozen of them left offspring atop the alpine peaks in the High Country."

The chapters on individual trees provide background on each particular tree, a short description of identifying features and photos.

"A whole book could be written about the biology of Red Spruce in the Adirondacks," Ketchledge writes. "In a very real sense it is the Adirondack conifer, the one species typical of the region as a whole. Early records convince me that Red Spruce characteristically constituted a minimum of 25 percent of the forest cover in the northern Adirondacks. Like White Pine, Adirondack Red Spruce has been hard-hit by the ax and saw for over a hundred and sixty years; but when left alone, as in the Forest Preserve today, the tree recovers from that onslaught better than its associates and in time regains its form former eminence."

In total, there are 34 chapters dedicated to trees. It is said that Ketchledge set out to photograph and describe 34 species of Adirondack trees in response to a challenge from Jerome Wyckoff, a geologist and ADK member.

The first publication stemming from that challenge was called "Trees." The current version reflects Ketchledge's desire to expand the book and describe how these species fit in the region's ecosystem.

"Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks" is available for $9.95 at bookstores and on the web.



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