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Newcomb's Wildflower Guide Paperback – April 13, 1989
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"I have tried Newcomb's key on flowers I know, and have been delighted by the ease with which they can be identified. The illustrations seem clear, precise, and definitive. This very salutary combination should make this guide a boon to amateur as well as the professional botanist..."―Eliot Porter
"Anyone who likes wildflowers and is planning a vacation trip to the North Central or Northeastern states will do well to take along this new guide."―Dallas Morning News
"Will be most useful for the identification of wild plants by amateurs and plant lovers. It is certainly an innovative guide for field trips...―S. Dillon Ripley, Smithsonian Institution
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Don't really need to say more other than excellent book. Can't miss book.
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.
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.
Newcomb's Wildflower guide takes a different approach. Created for the non botanist, it begins with flower shape, then leaf location, then leaf shape, until you have a 3 digit numeric key. Next by looking under this key for more detail, you are directed to the right page(s). For me this is wonderful, it takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, you find the correct illustration and description quickly without having to page though a multitude of pink or blue or white, etc. flowers.
Admittedly, this system is not for everyone. Many people may like starting with color, but for me this guide is truly useful in the field.