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Newcomb's Wildflower Guide Paperback – April 13, 1989
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Top Customer Reviews
I bought the softcover edition. It seems rugged enough to stand field use and is a good size to slip into a day pack or a cargo pocket in a pair of hiking pants.
It has been said that, if all you know is the name of something, you know nothing. Not true. Knowing the name allows you to find out everythig else.
I dearly wish a guide like this existed for the central U.S. Wildflower identification can be challenging, for us amateurs, but we have a wealth of print and electronic resources available and I use them all. This guide is not perfect. The coverage area is limited, and descriptions for some species are a bit thin, but if you're in region covered by this guide, and you don't need lots of pretty pictures in your field guide, this one belongs in your arsenal.
Great book for wildflowers, vines, and shrubs. If you are looking to identify trees, go for a different book.
This is a combination “field guide and “identification solver system”, and a very good one. It is written to cover the area of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and north of a line overlaying the southern border of Tennessee. Needless to say it is very relevant for the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge.
It is the type of “decision tree” (or grid) where the reader looks at the plant and answers five generic questions about it (e.g. leaf shape, etc.) in order and that leads them through the book to the identification. Once the reader does it a few times it is much, much faster to do than it is ton describe in writing. A particularly welcome advantage with this book is it doesn’t matter if the plant is in its’ bloom (color) season or not
The intro to the book includes detailed descriptions of plant physiology to help users understand the basic rules used to distinguish wildflower forms. Employing a five-question user query system, the guide uses the process of elimination based on forms to direct users to one or two pages that contain the correct plant. The questions are primarily based on the number of petals in the flowers, shape of the flowers, types of flower heads, flower colors, and arrangement of leaves and their shapes. The pages that contain the desired wildflower give further descriptions of the flower, along with the formal (and informal) name, Latin name, growing location and environment, blooming season, plant size, and the plant family name.
+ The query system really works.
+ The beautiful line illustrations (some in color) simplify the look of the plant for users, resulting in more accurate identification than photographs.
+ The guide is a convenient size for carrying into the field.
+ A ruler is included on the opening page, handy for checking sizes.
+ Because it is so accurate when used properly, it can replace the need for multiple guides, making it an outstanding value.
- The query system is only as good as a user's understanding of the wildflower form definitions laid out in the "Explanation of Basic Terms" section of the guide. If the user confuses the terms or encounters a plant that seems to straddle forms, the query system becomes more hit or miss.
- Users in parts of the United States outside the northeast quadrant are out of luck because the guide does not cover the entire country (though it doesn't claim to).
- The guide has a standard trade paperback cover, making it less durable than the reinforced, plasticized covers found on other field guides.
Once a user has used the guide for a while, it becomes second nature. Anyone can feel like a professional botanist in no time. For those who are serious about wildflower identification, Newcomb's is THE guide to own.