Book Review by Gabi McLean
(reprinted with permission from the The Paintbrush, May-June 2007, San Gabriel Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society)
Ever wondered what that red stuff on Red-stemmed Filaree is? Or when the backside of the banner of Lotus strigosus turns from yellow to red? Did you ever want to see the seeds of Wand Mullein? Or see the detail of the male and female flowers of the California Pepper Tree, which is really from South America? If you love detail, color, pictures, facts, charts, and botanical discussion, this book is for you! If you just love color and pictures, it still is worth getting! And if you are really into botany, this book is a treasure chest!
Oscar Clarke's extensive knowledge of the Santa Ana River watershed flora comes through loud and clear in the book that features 900 plant species with 3,200 images and illustrations, in a novel presentation of plants, plant relationships, and botanical basics and trivia. Diagrams and charts present a wealth of information in a concise way and in a condensed space, to the point of being hard to read with my old eyes. A section on botany basics, the botanical glossary, and eight appendices complement the presentation of plant species and make for reading for hours on end.
The presentation of plants by evolutionary relationships and pylogenetic order is an interesting approadh that, right from the start, serves as a learning tool. If you could care less about how plants evolve, you'll still have fun leafing through the picture book, studying the pictures and how they compare in size with a penny, reading the tidbits on plant uses or how the plant compares with others in the area, and where they are found.
In short: this book gets definitely two thumbs up from me! On a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give it a 10- (the minus is for the small print and gray font on gray background in the charts). You'll find it on Amazon.com and in bookstores. The list price is $29.95. Oscar himself will sell it at the Nature Knowledge Workshop in June where he will share his knowledge and enthusiasm about the natural world with all lucky participants, whether they are novices to botany or well versed in natural science.
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