Arizona Book Report

Arizona Book Report

March 7-18, 2005

I taught at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine around these dates. I did not get to do much keying, though as I was teaching botany at the school, I was looking thru the below books to try and set up handouts for the students to use in class to learn how to key. So the books are rated below for personal keying and also assessed in how easy they are as teaching aids. My one minor expedition while in Arizona was to Organ Pipe National Monument. So the books that best covered this area (i.e. The Jepson Desert Manual) are the ones most commonly used.

1)An Illustrated Guide to Arizona Weeds- Parker. While I like this books excellent black and white line illustrations and descriptions of the common weeds, I used it infrequently. Rating- for its potential, I would bring again. Also, if I made copies of some individual plants, I could use them as handouts for the students so they can see what they were looking at.

2)Weeds of the West- U. of Wyoming- I feel like I underutilize this book. It has excellent color photos, but I have used not used it much in the field. The book is a bit large and heavy, and its range is large and so a tad cumbersome. Rating- maybe, maybe not

3)The Jepson Desert Manual- A gem, perhaps the best of the lot. Now a lot of that has to do with me going to Organ Pipe, which shares many plants with Southern California, the region covered in this book. But true to its Jepson roots, there is a lot of thought put into the keys. And as it is a child of good ol’ Jepson, it has learned a thing or two, and is a bit improved upon the parent. And having a smaller region to cover just improves its utility. So I like it.  Rating; bring it any time I’m in this area. It also was the best choice for the SWSBM students to key out of. I only used it for families (that’s all we had time for), but as the plants I had gathered were from Organ Pipe, I probably could have used it for some species. So I copied out the family section and the pertinent family groups and used them with the students. Also quite useful is that they are going to Anza-Borrego a few days after this class, they can use this copied section to practice to the family.  Yea, Jepson

4)Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes- Mielke. I did not use this book, though its value remains its excellent color photos of the plants and particularly the long view of shrubs so one can get a good sense of their full habit. Rating- if I’m looking at figuring out Southwestern shrubs and trees, this is quite useful

5)A Falcon Guide- Northern Chihuahuan Desert Wildflowers- West.  I did not use it on this trip- the Sonoran guide was consulted frequently

6)Flowering Plants of New Mexico- Ivey- 2nd ed.- I only used this book briefly while in the Chiricahua’s, which lie next to New Mexico. I used this book a lot when I was in New Mexico (’94-’95) and if I strayed near the New Mexico border again, I would bring it along for it’s homey black and white illustrations which are conveniently placed in families. Time to purchase the 4th edition. Another useful aspect of this book is the black and white drawings describing the families. Very useful for the beginner.

7)Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert- Shreve and Wiggins- Volume II. The keys are still difficult (what is it with this area and floras?) and I did not spend much time using it. I tried to copy keys for the students to use, but this, along with Kearny and Peebles, were obtuse for general use. Rating- I would probably bring it along to the Sonoran desert again-maybe.

8)The Cacti of Arizona- Benson, 3rd ed.- No cacti flowering on this trip, but if there were, this books looks good with a combo of pictures and black and while line illustrations. Rating- I look forward to test-driving it some day.

9)Flora of the Gran Desierto- Felger- I did not bring this along due to weight etc. I did use Michael Moore’s copy to copy a key for the students to use. The keys are smaller due to its more limited range and so this aspect may be useful in the future. I still need to give it a run in the field. Rating- bring it when within its range.

10)Arizona Flora- Kearney and Peebles- Well, this is unfortunately the book for Arizona. Unfortunate because it is hard to use. I would be nervous even letting the uninitiated students peer into its hard-to-fathom contents, afraid that they would never again try to key out a plant. I used it a few times this trip, and of course it does have its uses, and I used it to confirm a few hunches and some of the plant keys are decipherable, so I reckon I will continue to use this tome and write run-on sentences in the future. I also use it at home to try and confirm photos. Rating- Got choice?

11)A Falcon Guide- Sonoran Desert Wildflowers- Spellenberg- I still like this book. The photos and info are good, and he has a good sense of what plants one might run into. It is a good beginner’s book (sans key) and it is what it is, a good book to look up flowers by their color. Whoopee. Rating- bring it along and glance thru it to learn that which I may run into.

12)Desert Wildflowers of North America- Taylor- This book is also a nice color photo book. With two distinct advantages. One, he will often show two photos of a shrub. One with the habit form and another with the flower, very useful when admiring and trying to decipher shrubbery. The other is also a big plus, he has the plants in families. So I like this book. Rating- keep bringing it 

13)Arizona Atlas and Gazetteer- These books are very useful on my travels

14)Trees and Shrubs of the Southwestern Deserts- Benson and Darrow 3rd 1981. While I only used this book a few times (for Lycium pallidum) it has a number of characteristics that recommend it. First, its inclusiveness of all Southwestern deserts. Secondly, its exclusiveness of just trees and shrubs. Thirdly, its distribution maps. Fourthly, the compact description of each plant type in the beginning of each monograph, giving salient points of what I should be seeing or looking for. Fifthly, it has a few good black and white line illustrations. Drawbacks, it is quite large. The photos are of another era. And my lack of using it much does not allow me to go full throttle on this review. Rating- give another go.

15)A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona- Epple. Hmmm, this book offers some useful bits as well as some challenges. Firstly, as it stands, it is a book I would always bring along to Arizona. Why? It is the most inclusive color photograph book of Arizona. It is handy that the photos state when and where they were taken. The challenges. The photos are so-so and more relevantly the information on each plant is scanty. For me, it would have been handier in this type of book with the photos in families. So, one could find a plant and perhaps work your way to a genus. It is helpful (but limitly so) that there are listings of how many species are within a genus. Rating- a faulty but aspiring necessity

16)Booklet- Checklist of Vascular Plants of Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. This unadorned book was very worth the $2.50 paid at the visitor center there. It is very small and lists plants genera and species under family headings. It has an index. It lists common plants. Its useable beauty comes when one knows the genera of a plant and then looking it up in this booklet. If there is only one species, then that is that. If there is more than one, one could use a field guide and par away all the no shows, and I could even use an easier to use field guide (such as Jepson’s desert) and see if it has the species listed within it and use its less formidable key. Yes, a delight. Thank you Park Service. Rating- read the review stupid.

An Ordered List
While in Arizona bring;
1.The Jepson Desert Manual
2.A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona- Epple.
3.Arizona Flora- Kearney and Peebles
4.A Falcon Guide- Sonoran Desert Wildflowers- Spellenberg
5.Desert Wildflowers of North America- Taylor
6.Arizona Atlas and Gazetteer

And also consider
1.Trees and Shrubs of the Southwestern Deserts- Benson and Darrow 3rd 1981.
2.The Cacti of Arizona- Benson, 3rd ed.-
3.An Illustrated Guide to Arizona Weeds- Parker
4.Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes- Mielke
5.A Falcon Guide- Northern Chihuahuan Desert Wildflowers- West
6.Weeds of the West
7.Flowering Plants of New Mexico- Ivey
8.Checklist of Vascular Plants of Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona.
9.Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert- Shreve and Wiggins
10.Flora of the Gran Desierto- Felger