I was researching the history of a centennial elm on Old Saybrook's Main Street when Maggie Redfern (Conn College Arboretum) suggested that I pick up a copy of "Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees in the American Cityscape" by Jill Jonnes. The cover looks like a textbook and the title is about as exciting, but never judge a book by its cover. The writing in "Urban Forests" is clear and moves quickly, with lots of anecdotes and a light touch. For those who love trees and landscapes, this specialized book is a great read.
Indeed, "Urban Forests" has a wonderful history of elms as street trees in the US. I finally feel like I have a grasp on the development of disease-resistant elms: Liberty, Pioneer, Princeton, and Valley Forge. I also understand the elm hybrids a bit better now, such as Homestead elms.
For a horticultural "Raiders of the Lost Ark" story, read the chapters on the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). It was believed extinct but was rediscovered in the early 20th century. Today, it is a common tree in city parks and home landscapes--fast-growing, tall, tough, and handsome.