Thursday, March 28, 2013

Question: Which book should I buy? Answer: All of them.

Whenever I do a public program about wildflowers I get asked "What field guide do you use/recommend?"  Sometimes it's hard not to laugh at that question.  I have a couple favorites, but I have a whole stack(s) of books that I use as field/identification guides.  Some of them are used on a regular basis.  Some are just collector's items.

Some of the ones that I use on a regular basis have lots of photographs for identification.  Others are filled with line drawings.  I find both type of books useful.  I like photographs if I am focused mainly on the flowers.  If I am trying to identify the plant by other features such as leaves I find the ones with line illustrations to be better. 

My Two Current Favorites for General Identification

Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie, 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the              Northeastern United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

     - This book is very extensive and filled with range maps, bloom times, and photographs.  I have not
        found a wildflower in Mid-Michigan yet that was not in this book.  If I had to recommend a single book
        for wildflower identification for the Northeast and Great Lakes, this would be the one.  It is a bit hefty
        to carry around at times, measuring 8.25 x 5.5 x 1 inch, but the size and weight are worth it. It is 
        available on for around $37.

Smith, Helen V., 1966. Michigan Wildflowers. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Cranbrook Institute of Science

     -  This is an older book filled with accurate line drawings.  It is not as extensive as the Clements and
        Gracie book, but few are.  I like this one because it is specific to Michigan and provided good habitat
        information.  Amazingly, new copies can occasionally be found hiding bookstores and gift shops.

Other Good Field/Identification Guides That I Use

Borman, Susan, Robert Korth, and Jo Temte, 1997. Through the Looking Glass…: A Field Guide to               Aquatic Plants. Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Lakes Partnership.

     -  This one is definitely not a "field" guide.  It measures a full 8.5 x 11 inches.  Excellent line drawings and
         very detailed descriptions.  This was my favorite wetland guide until I purchased A Great Lakes  
         Wetland Flora by Steve Chadde.  I still like it better for some purposes.

Buchholtz, K. P. et al, 1960. Weeds of the North Central States (Revised). Urbana, Illinois:
          University of  Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station

     -  Another older book, but still useful for "weed" identification. Has really nice line drawings of all parts
         of the plant including roots and seed.

Chadde, Steve W., 2002. A Great Lakes Wetland Flora: A Complete Guide to the Aquatic and 
          Wetland Plants of the Upper Midwest (Second Edition). Laurium, Michigan: PocketFlora Press.

     -  The best book there is for Great Lakes wetland plants.  It is a "field guide" but it is heavy at over 1.5
         inches thick.  If you are interested in wetland plants this is a must buy.

Chadde, Steve W., 1996. Plants of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
          Calumet, Michigan: PocketFlora Press.

     -  A nice guide for what it is.  I actually bought this guide at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Hitchcock, A.S., 1971. Manual of the Grasses of the United States Vol. One (Second Edition).
          New York, Dover Publications.

     -  This is a new book to me.  I usually don't try to ID grasses, but might start.  I need to find Volume 2.

Kavanagh, James, 2004. Pocket Naturalist: Michigan Trees & Wildflowers - An Introduction to
          Familiar Species. Dunedin, Florida: Waterford Press

     -  I have a number of "pocket" guides on a variety of subjects.  They are great if weight is an issue in your
         decision of what guide to take but only show small illustrations of a limited number of species.  Great
         for beginners of for casual identification.

Knobel, Edward, 1980. Field Guide to the Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of the United States.
          New York: Dover Publications.

     -  A good first guide for grasses.  The price is definitely right - $4.95.

Ladd, Doug, 2001. North Woods Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Northeastern            United States and Southeastern Canada. Helena, Montana: Falcon Publishing.

     -  I really like these next two books from Falcon Publishing.  Really good color photographs, nice short
        descriptions of the plants and their habitats.  My only wish is that they contained more species.  These
        books are everything I want in a field guide, except there are too many species that are not included.  I
        know this was done in the interest of making them portable.  If more extensive "tabletop" versions were
        created I would definitely purchase. 

Ladd, Doug, and Frank Oberle, 2005. Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Common                     Wildflowers and Plants of the Prairie Midwest. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press.

Marrone, Teresa, 2009. Wild Berries & Fruits Field Guide (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan).
          Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications.

      -  I use this one quite a bit to identify plants that have passed the flowering phase and gone on to
          produce fruit. Very good layout, descriptions, and photos help with identification.

Miller, Mark, 2000. Prairie in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Plants of the Tallgrass Prairie.                              Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press.

     -  Guides to prairie plants do not seem to be common here in Mid-Michigan, so when I see one I tend to
         snap it up.  This double-sided laminated guide folds out to approximately 17 x 25 inches and manages
         to show illustrations, height and bloom periods for 10 species of grasses and 102 species of
         wildflowers.  At under $10 this is a good beginners guide to prairie plants.

Peterson, Roger T., and Margaret McKenny, 1968. A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and             North- Central North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

     -  Still in publication after 45 years, this is another good guide to have around.  Everyone seems to have
         a Peterson Guide laying around - with good reason.  It is very extensive, well illustrated and has a
         layout that makes sense.  Look for a used copy if you can find one- there are plenty of them available.

Tekiela, Stan, 2000. The Wildflowers of Michigan Field Guide. Cambridge, Minnesota:                                      Adventure Publications

     -  This is my second copy of this book - if I wear out this copy I will buy a third one.  I have bought this
         book as a gift for people.  I have tabbed mine to easily find pages when leading wildflower walks.  In
         many ways this is a perfect "field" guide for a beginner.  Large pictures, really good descriptions, the
         perfect size for sticking in your back pocket.

         The one drawback is the fact that too many species are omitted from this book.  That is not really a
         criticism, but it has left me disappointed at times in the wood when I have been unable to find
         something in the book.  This was the first Michigan-specific wildflower book that I purchased.  It was
         the one that started the addiction.  If something was not in here I had to buy a new book.  When
         something was not in that book, I had to buy another book, and so on...

Thieret, John W.(revision author), William A Niering, and Nancy C. Olmstead (original authors), 2001.                 National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region. 
          New York: Alfred A.Knopf.

     -  I hate the layout of all Audubon Guides - separate sections for photos and text.  The information is
        good, but it annoying to have to flip back and forth. There is no reason to make a guide with this type
        of layout anymore.  I use this guide only for looking up information, never for identification, and never
        in the field.

Watts, May T., 1955. Flower Finder: A Guide to Identification of Spring Wild Flowers and Flower               Families. Rochester, New York: Nature Study Guild

     -  My copy of this book cost me $1.75 plus tax.  I use it sometimes when I am trying to decide between
         two or more similar species.  The key in this book is very easy to use.  It has seen a surprising amount
         of use for a book with only 60 pages.

Planting Guides (Interesting information on How the Plants Grow)

     -  I used both of these guides when determining what species to include in the Native
        Pollinator/Wildflower Gardens at Saginaw Chippewa Academy and Winn Elementary

Art, Henry W., 1986. A Garden of Wildflowers: 101 Native Species and How to Grow Them.                        Pownal, Vermont: Storey Communications.

Art, Henry W., 1988. Creating a Wildflower Meadow. Pownal, Vermont: Storey Communications

Older Guides (Interesting but less helpful) 

     -  The color illustrations in these guides are the best things about them.  The information is often out of
         date (especially scientific names) and the prose descriptions can be(pardon the pun) flowery, but these
         books are tiny jewels.  These were purchased purely for enjoyment.

Everett, T.H., 1945. Field Flowers. Racine, Wisconsin: Whitman Publishing.

Harvey, Jane, 1932. Wildflowers of America. Racine, Wisconsin: Whitman Publishing.

      -I have two copies of this with different bindings
King, Julius, 1935. Wild Flowers at a Glance. Cleveland, Ohio: The Harter Publishing Company

Johnson, Gaylord, 1926. Nature’s Program. New York: Nelson Doubleday.

     -  This book is all about phenology - what is going on in nature at what time.It can be useful if you want to
         figure out what should be flowering before you go into the field

Lemmon, Robert S., and Charles C Johnson, 1961. Wildflowers of North America in Full Color.               New York: Nelson Doubleday.

     -  I think I purchased this book for a couple dollars at an antique store.  It is broken down by regions of
        the United States and describes some of the species found in those regions.  It has nice photographs,
        but I don't think I have looked at this book for more than ten minutes since I bought it..

Mathews, F. Schuyler, 1927. Field Book of American Wildflowers (Revised Edition).
          New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons

       -  Originally published in 1902, this is my favorite "old" wildflower book.  It is arranged by family.
           Most of the illustrations are line drawings, but there is a section of color plates at the end of the book.
           The illustrations remind me of Peterson's, but predate it by decades.  Each flower in the book is
           accompanied by a descriptive paragraph, which not only discusses the plant but also the insects
           associated with the plant. The Arts & Crafts illustration on the cover is reason alone to love this

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