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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification Paperback – January, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1892784155 ISBN-10: 1892784157 Edition: 5th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: HOPS Press, LLC; 5 edition (January 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892784157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892784155
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Botany in a Day presents a simplified way of identifying plants through learning the patterns in over 100 plant families." -- Ecology Action Newsletter. Willits, California. February 2003.
(Review of the fourth edition.)

From the Publisher

A Positive Relationship with Nature

Our culture teaches us that we are separate from nature. We spend most of our lives in houses surrounded by manicured lawns, living in towns or cities where recrecational activies are based on human-centered sports. Nature is something we go to a park to see, or we watch a show about it on TV.

Those of us in the field of environmental education try to preach a different message, telling people that "all life is interconnected" and that "we really are part of nature". But in the next breath we tell them to stay on the trails and to practice "no-trace" camping. We tell them to look at nature and photograph it, but not to touch it. We tell them our modern way of life is destroying nature, and that we need to stop mucking up the planet. In other words, we tell them we are part of nature--the bad part!

Here at HOPS Press, LLC we advocate a positive interactive relationship with the natural world. We want people to get involved in nature, to be a part of the process on many levels:

Through Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills and the Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series, you can experience an intimate connection with nature as you rediscover the skills our ancestors used to survive for tens of thousands of years. Instead of merely camping in the wilderness or passing through it, you will become part of the process as you learn about nature by using it to meet your needs for shelter, fire, water and food. Learn to set aside the trappings of modern culture and step directly into nature with little or nothing, to experience nature on its own terms.

With Tom's book Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, you can connect with the wonderful diversity of plants and flowers all around you in a way that you may have never imagined. Instead of seeing the green world as little more than pretty wallpaper, you will learn to know the individual plants, wildflowers and weeds as if they have been your life-long friends. Our book Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99 utilizes the same patterns method of identifying plants as Botany in a Day, but in a metaphorical story form where children of all ages can join young Shanleya on her journey to learn the plant traditions of her people.

In Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction you will learn how to make your home part of nature, as well as how to make nature part of your home. Learn the secrets to building low-cost, high-efficiency homes with stone masonry, log-building and strawbale construction methods. With this book and Tom's Slipform Stone Masonry DVD/VHS Video you will be able to build your quality, earth-friendly Dream home on a budget, even while the "experts" say it isn't cost effective.

Finally, in Direct Pointing to Real Wealth: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Money, you will learn to see the economy as an ecosystem where money is a token that represents calories of energy. Learn the basic rules of this economic ecosystem and you will be empowered to use your resources to more effectively achieve your desired quality of life, while making the world a better place to be. You will be able help convert an economy that harms planetary biodiversity into an economy that helps restore it.

More About the Author

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother Josie Jewett. Together they explored the hills and meadows near Virginia City, Montana, collecting herbs, looking for arrowheads and watching wildlife. Grandma Josie helped Tom to learn about native plants and their uses, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired him ever since. She also sparked his interest in survival skills.

Tom was born in Los Altos, California in 1967 to Edwin and Jeanette Elpel. Every summer the family traveled back to Montana to be close to the extended family. They spent much of that time with Grandma Josie. Tom's father died in 1979, and the following summer the family moved permanently back to Montana. Tom attended junior high and high school in Bozeman, Montana.

"All I ever wanted to do as a kid was to go to Grandma's house," Tom said. "When she moved from Virginia City to Pony, I followed her. Renee and I eventually bought land just a couple blocks from her place."

Tom's first serious exposure to wilderness survival skills began at the age of 16, when he went on a 26-day, 250-mile walkabout in the desert canyons of southern Utah with Boulder Outdoor Survival School. The following year he and Grandma Josie went together to Tom Brown's Tracker School in New Jersey. From there Tom spent thousands of hours practicing and developing survival skills in his "backyard" in the Rocky Mountains.

Tom met his sweetheart Renee in high school, where they both spent a lot of time in the art room. He asked her to go on a hike with him, and she said "no." But later Tom asked her again to go for a walk, and she said "okay." To Renee there was a big difference between a hike and a walk. Hiking didn't sound like much fun to her, but walking sounded good. In 1988, two years out of high school, they walked 500 miles together across Montana, starting in Pony, and ending at Fort Union on the North Dakota border. They were married in the Pony Park the following summer.

The couple bought a five-acre parcel in Pony, just two blocks distance from Grandma Josie's house. They moved into a tent and started building their dream home of stone and log. They both worked with troubled teens in wilderness therapy programs, so they commuted to Idaho, Utah, or Arizona for three-week trips, then came home to spend their money on building materials. (Be sure to read Tom's article Building a House on Limited Means for more details.)

Tom's desire to make a difference in the world started early, partly the result from watching too much news with Walter Chronkite as a child. By the time he entered junior high he was on a mission to change the world. Friends in high school said he would grow out of his idealism and learn to accept the world as it was, but so far that hasn't happened. (He hasn't exactly changed the world either, but he insists he is still working on it.)

In an effort to tackle the issues of making a living while making the world a better place, Tom wrote his first book (more of a booklet) in 1991, which evolved over the years into Direct Pointing to Real Wealth. He has always written about subjects he wanted to learn and developed professionalism by writing, reflecting, revising, and republishing. He typically publishes four or five draft editions in comb-bound format before printing with a conventional paperback binding for the mass market. Along the way he started his own publishing company, HOPS Press, LLC, and created a successful internet bookstore.

In 1991 Tom also founded Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School (HOPS) and has been giving classes on everything from Stone-Age living to stone masonry ever since. His basic philosophy is that the wilderness survival skills are useful to connect with nature, but you shouldn't run away from the problems of modern society. Instead, we need to apply the lessons and spirit of living close to nature towards the quest to solve our worldly problems.

"Experts and lay persons alike bemoan the difficulty of creating a sustainable lifestyle, but it really isn't that hard." Tom said. "Renee and I had less money and less skills than a lot of people, but we built an energy-efficient passive solar home, and we now generate our own electricity with solar panels. Sustainability isn't that difficult, you just have to stay focused on the goal."

Tom and Renee Elpel adopted three children, Felicia, Cassie, and Donny in 1996. Edwin was born to them in 2001. The family has been on many great adventures together, exploring the world by canoe, by car, or occasionally by bus and train. Tom has continued to passionately pursue his writing career no matter what other distractions there might be, learning to focus even through a parade of kids marching back and forth through his office.

In 2001 Tom founded Jefferson River Canoe Trail Association (originally named 3Rivers Park) to help sustain Montana's traditions of open space and open access along the Jefferson River segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The publishing business and internet bookstore took over Tom and Renee's house room by room, until they bought Granny's Country Store in 2003. Although the store is an hour away from Pony, there is a house built into the store, so they migrate back and forth between the two places. The property at Granny's Country Store included enough room to launch Green University, LLC, which is Tom's latest endeavor to make real and lasting change in the world.

Tom's grandmother died in 2004 at the age of 89. Her love for nature continues to inspire Tom every day. Although he is insanely busy, getting out into nature remains a high priority, and he continues to hone his wilderness survival and awareness skills.

Customer Reviews

This book is great for anyone wanting to learn more about botany.
M. Horn
This breaks things into families so you can make identification much easier instead of having to memorize individual plants.
Great tips for identifying families and individual plants have helped me enormously.
Mary Engle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By T. Ibsen on September 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Botany in a Day provides an excellent overview to field botany. By learning plant characteristics by family, the reader can more quickly identify their plant by identifying the patterns each plant family presents. The book provides a page or two (or more!) on dozens of the most common families in the northern half of the US. Each plant family section contains additional information about the plant genera represented in this family. The keys to plant families allow the reader to quickly determine what section to turn to. This book is best coupled with a plant field guide to individual species that is grouped by family. You can use the Botany in a Day information to narrow your selection to the family and the field guide to identify the specific species.

I highly recommend this book to both lay and professional people who work with plants.
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102 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Mary Engle on April 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the opening chapter, this book presents a wonderful simplified story of the evolution of plants, from a single cell to modern complex flowers. Both children and adults can gain a unique, intuitive understanding of this process from this explanation. My compliments to the author. He describes each plant family with interesting anecdotes and high quality line drawings. It's the first plant book whose lack of photographs didn't matter. Great tips for identifying families and individual plants have helped me enormously. Bravo!
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Any interested in plant identification should consider Botany In A Day: The Patterns Method Of Plant Identification as an important guide. Thomas Elpel (Director of Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School, Pony, Montana) deftly teaches the patterns method of plant identification, providing a method for learning about groupings of plants based on the idea that related plants have similar patterns for identification, and similar uses. Black and white line drawings accompany descriptions of different plant families and their identification processes.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book ranks with such classics of plant indentification as Agnes Chase's A First Book of Grasses, or Donald Culross Peattie's books on tree indentification. Taking a bird's-eye view and then drilling down from there, it provides an overview of plant structure and evolution as well as many technical details relating to the structure and identification of plants. This would make an excellent first book for anyone wanting to know more about the subject. After this, you can try some of the more detailed field manuals and then try to get your feet wet with some of the real taxonomic keys. These require some knowledge of plant anatomy, but there's nothing that difficult about that, except that having a good memory is a help. But really, it doesn't take that much smarts and anyone can learn to identify the most common trees, flowers, and even fungi in their area with a little time and patience.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Corey Hendricks on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the most comprehensive, thoughtful, well written book I know of on plant identification and their subsequent utilization as a resource be it food, rope or medicine. I am in awe at the depth of experience the author has with the plants in the book. The grouping and classification is clear and interesting. The patterns used to identify are within reach of anyone, its as if I've been given a key to unlock some of the beautiful mysteries of nature. I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of nature. Now I am truly participating in nature.

So far it has allowed me to teach my kids (3 and 5) more about plants than I learned in 25 years! I love this book.

I appreciate the Medicinal Properties of Plants section which has enough detail for a chemist but is understandable to the layperson as well. The entire book is written like that; professional or layperson will get a profound lesson. Its like an entire course on wild plants but written in a reference manual style with a very personal touch.

This has given me a level of confidence I have always desired. Any human being should be given a copy of this book at birth! This should be in every library and taught in every school. If animals could read I would recommend it to them to. Peace
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A. Chong on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book does a great job of introducing the subject of botany, much more
systematically than the typical "field guide." It concentrates on getting
you started into the right family with identification, and also listing
some of the notable and edible plants in each genus.

It lists edibility, but given that you don't really have a solid identification
of the plant, I wouldn't eat something based on it. He does at least list
the source of the edibility info in parenthesis. And he's pulled info from
5 or more sources.

I thought the intro and evolution of plants section in the beginning as well
as the half dozen most common families section in the front was good, succinct
and well written. There is a slightly confusing dichotomy key in the front too.

The bulk of the guide is an overview of each family, generally one (or one subfamily)
per page that gives a good information on the characteristics of the family and its
constituent genuses.

Illustrations look like they're from Britton and Brown, with lots of notes
added. For instance, there is a black and white line drawing and arrows pointing
out "3 stamens, 2 carpals, etc"

Text is slightly Montana-centric, but not overbearingly so.

Overall, a great intro to plants in 200 pages.
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