Summary: Fantastic wildflower guide suited for newcomers and old hats alike. Best if you are trying to identify a plant in bloom. A bit pricey, but worth it. My favorite field guide! The more I use it, the more I like it…
This is my go-to wildflower guide. My copy is pretty worn; the binding is starting to breakdown. It has traveled in my backpack over hundreds of miles, often living in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. It has been rained on, dropped in mud, pondered over with dirty fingers, sat upon, etc. etc.
Physically, it is a rather meaty book. At approximately 8 x 5 1/2 x 1″ inches, and 1.8 pounds, the soft cover version will add a bit of weight to your pack. The book is constructed with quality material, a rather glossy thick page stock that should shed a few rain drops without issue.
There is a brief 15-page introduction that provides an adequate, well-edited (if not downright linguistically frugal) approach to wildflower identification. This text would not serve well as a botany primer–nor is it intended to be one.
The real bones of this plant guide is the militant face-to-face construction of plant descriptions (on the left hand page) and plant photographs (on the right hand page). Six to eight plants are featured per set of pages.
Typically, each photograph page is a 3 x 3 grid, with some plant photos taking up more than one grid. Each described plant has a single representative high-quality photograph. The limitations of a single photograph per plant are obvious–it is not easy or possible to capture all of a species’ features in any one image. Most of the focus of the photographs are on the flowering parts of the plant, and less so on leaves or stems. Some plant entries have smaller inset photographs of the leaves or other useful features. Additionally, there is a line drawn on each photograph typically representing the life-size average width or height of each flower. I find that the photographs are well chosen, and make a good starting point for the “thumb through the field guide” method of plant ID.
The left hand description page directly faces its corresponding photograph page, so that both can be viewed simultaneously. This means that there is no need to flip pages when researching a plant. The guide is arranged by wildflower color, and a colored band (red, blue, white, etc.) runs down the outside edge of the description page so that the reader can quickly find the right hue. Once the correct wildflower color is chosen, the guide arranges the plants based on leaf and petal characteristics. A header followed by a brief description clarifies what group of plants are discussed in each section.
Each individual plant decription has a standard map of a portion of the northeastern U.S. with the westernmost state Wisconsin and the southernmost state Virginia. Highlights of a particular color show the regionality of each plant, with each color denoting the expected season of bloom. Like the color bar, the maps are on the outer aspect of each description page, making it easy to flip through.
Each plant has a common name followed by a scientific name. A terse dense description of all the pertinent features of a given plant takes up four to six lines of text. This formula is repeated throughout the book, for “over 1400 species” of wildflowers.
Shortcomings: There is only so much information you can fit in one reasonable size book. While this guide does a great job of packing in as much information as possible, do not rely on this (or any other book) as your single source of identification for plants you may consume. It is pricey; my copy is stamped $55.00 USD. I nearly choked when I initially saw that price. Now, my copy feels priceless!
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The Walking Herbalist has no affiliation of the authors or the publishers of this book at the time of the writing of this review. We purchased our own copy of this book for our own private use. This review is simply here to help our readers put together their own herbalism library, and other than possible commissions as an Amazon.com affiliate, we receive no compensation for this.