An Arizona madrone tree along the Bug Spring Trail in the Catalinas, from the book "Mountain Trees of Southern Arizona" by Tucsonan Frank Rose. The tree can live for 200 to 250 years.


Many of us head for mountain forests as summer heat comes on - and a new book by a Tucson author could enrich your experience in the cool, green woods.

"Mountain Trees of Southern Arizona: A Field Guide," by Frank Rose, is packed with pictures and fascinating facts on everything from bigtooth maples to ponderosa pines.

Among much else, readers will learn that:

• Emory oak trees produce acorns that are edible, quite sweet, and have long been harvested for human consumption.

• Douglas fir trees can live for hundreds of years - and twigs and needles of the species were once used as a coffee substitute.

• Arizona madrone trees are close relatives of the manzanita shrub and may live for 200 to 250 years.

• The bark of ponderosa pine trees has a pleasant odor, a bit reminiscent of vanilla.


Rose, a retired clergyman who is now an active author and photographer, became fascinated with mountain trees soon after moving to Arizona in 1982.

"We took weekly hikes, and many of them took us into mountain forests," Rose said. "Finding all these trees up there was amazing. It still amazes me - looking up at the mountains from the desert, seeing that blue cast, and realizing it's trees."

Several years ago, after completing work on his "Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona" book, Rose set out to produce a guide on mountain trees.

He trekked countless mountain trails to take tree photos, and he invested much time learning details about the diverse species.

Among his many fascinating findings: "I learned that trees can communicate with each other. Apparently, it's chemically, producing a smell. For example, if a tree is attacked by an insect, it defends itself with a chemical, and the surrounding trees begin producing that chemical. So I like to say that trees have noses."


The 104-page book features 41 species of trees that grow at elevations of 4,500 feet and above in the mountains of Southern Arizona.

Sections on each tree include a general description and interesting facts, multiple photos and data on tree type, height, bark, needles or leaves, flowers, fruit, habitat, elevation and region.

The spiral-bound book, published by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press, sells for $19.95.

It's available at the Desert Museum, the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center, the Palisades Visitor Center in the Catalina Mountains, some bookstores and at online.

did you know?

Trees are divided into two main groups: gymnosperms (trees with needles and cones) and angiosperms (those with flowers).

Source: "Mountain Trees of Southern Arizona"

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz