Florida Book Report 2009

Florida Book Report

February 2009


Details of this year’s trip-First, I brought way too many books, as is evident from the list below. The reason for such excess (besides inclination) was that I was camping for a few days, and so I thought I could test drive a number of them, and know their usefulness for future Florida excursions. So I thought. The reality is that Northern Florida had received a number of cold snaps and frost over the prior few weeks, and so while it would have been lean anyway (this being winter, even there), there were very few plants in flower (around 10 or so, including the roadside ones), and so little chance to use the field guides. The ones that came in most handy were the ones in which flowers were least important to key out; the trees and shrubs. Ferns would have fit here too, but alas, I am a slacker-monkey when it comes to identifying them.
I also barely used the bird books, as there were often knowledgeable people around to identify them for me.
I hope I can take the ‘leave at home’ list seriously in the future, the weight in airplanes is onerous. Some of the books I am less sure if I should bring or not, such as books about ferns, as I would like to increase my knowledge about them. But I barely do that at home, so why would I do that there?
The cult of Gil Nelson; it is somewhat embarrassing to note the propensity of Gil Nelson’s books that I have, as even a cursory look at the list below will show. I was most surprised when I was going through the books to students and realized that even the Florida landscape book was by him. Maybe I should send him an email and ask for honorary acceptance into his fan club. Or start the first New York chapter?

Summary for Readers-This is not one of the most useful plant field guide lists as I did not get to use a number of them due to weather/flower conditions. If you are reading this, note that many of the individual book reviews are from a different Florida Book Report, so you may want to go there. But note too that if you do, all previous book reports are from much further sub-tropical Florida, and so given the time of year, a lot of differences apply. Also, let this list be a warning about bringing too many books


All the Books
1.[Booklet] Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Florida part 1-Ward
2.A Falcon Guide-Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildflowers-Nelson
3.A Falcon Guide-East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers-Nelson
4.Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States-Dicotyledons-Godfrey and Wooten
5.Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States-Monocotyledons-Godfrey/Wooten
6.Birds of Florida-Alsop
7.Florida Atlas and Gazetteer
8.Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants-Bell/Taylor
9.Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants-Nelson
10.Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians-Williams/Carmichael
11.Flowering Plants of Florida-Zomlefer
12.Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida (2nd ed.)-Wunderlin/Hansen
13.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida-Alden/Cech/Nelson
14.Seaside Plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts-Duncan/Duncan
15.The Ferns of Florida-Nelson
16.The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida-Nelson
17.The Trees of Florida-Nelson
18.Trees of Northern Florida-Kurz/Godfrey
19.Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses-Co-op extension-Athens, GA
20.Wildflowers-Parker

Books that I did not use much this trip and have apt descriptions elsewhere. Abbreviations used-FBR#-refers to another Florida Book Report plus year written, so FBR06 is the Florida Book Report 2006, which is listed in the Articles section.

1.Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States-Dicotyledons-Godfrey and Wooten-I did not use these books at all for this trip, and I’m not so sure about the future, as they are sizable. But they do have some of the best black and white illustrations. See FBR06
2.Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States-Monocotyledons-Godfrey/Wooten-FBR06
3.Birds of Florida-Alsop-FBR06
4.Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants-Bell/Taylor-FBR05 &06
5.Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants-Nelson-FBR05&06
6.Flowering Plants of Florida-Zomlefer-FBR07
7.Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida (2nd ed.)-Wunderlin/Hansen-FBR06


Books that I just don’t use
1.[Booklet] Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Florida part 1-Ward-I just don’t seem to ever use checklists such as this for the whole state. For a local checklist (such as for Payne’s Prairie) I use these extensively.

Books to Consider

1.A Falcon Guide-Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildflowers-Nelson-Due to the lack of flowers, and since this book is based on flowers for identification, I did not get a good chance to use it. I reserve judgment for a future excursion.

2.A Falcon Guide-East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers-Nelson-same as above.

3.Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians-Williams/Carmichael-The only real opportunity I had to use this book is with the water snakes I would see. But their non-distinct brown coloration made it hard to identify them from other similar water snakes in the book. So, with its big size and non-exact identification abilities, it seems like a good book to leave home. Though, in its favor, it does have a lot of large very good quality photos, and so if the herp was more distinctive, this book would probably be helpful in identification.

4.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida-Alden/Cech/Nelson-While the information within this book seems to make it an obvious choice to bring whenever in Florida, I don’t usually use this kind of comprehensive, all things considered, kind of book. But looking through it, it looks like the Audubon Society did a bang-up job with this one. The color photos are very good, and it covers many aspects of natural life in Florida including descriptions of its parks. I shall bring it again when I go back down.

5.Seaside Plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts-Duncan/Duncan-I was pretty excited to use this book, as it is clearly aimed at the botanist-type (along with lay-folk) of plant identifier. The reasons are that 1) it covers a specific terrain, helping to keep it carry-able but specific, 2) it has keys to all the contained genera and some species. It also has good quality photographs as well as scattered but useful black and white illustrations often to a specific detail such as a fruit. It too has good descriptions to each species. So in short, a useful book for the advanced plant gawker. The one problem is that it does not have keys to many of the individual species, which as you might imagine is quite maddening. So the one time I really had a chance to use it (mostly due to lack of available flowers) it did not help in getting to the species I was looking at. Oh well, I guess I can be a nag about some things, but I just want to know the species, man. I will continue to bring this along as it does have many positive qualities and I can use it along with Wunderlin to get to a species and have a description and photo of the plant.

6.The Ferns of Florida-Nelson-Looks good, it has keys and color photos, but I have not given it a try yet.

7.The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida-Nelson-This book (along with the similar trees and ferns books by Nelson) is similar in what I like and like less about it. The positive. I really appreciate Gil Nelson’s devotion to making books like this available. Especially with this tricky to distinguish group of woody plants, the shrubs. The color photos and occasional black and white illustrations are nicely done, as well the ‘distinguishing marks’ listed for each species. The descriptions are short but reasonably adequate, and the distribution information is very helpful, especially coming from someone who has seen where they grow. As with other books in this series, the lack of any type of key is frustrating.  But aside from this, this is an excellent book for which its title describes and one that I will continually bring with me to Florida.

8.The Trees of Florida-Nelson-Due to the lack of flowers, I used primarily tree books including this one. I have mixed feelings about this book. First the good, it is comprehensive and so if I know what the tree is, I can read a bit about it. One of my favorite aspects about it are the distinguishing marks that set it apart for other similar-looking trees. I used this part frequently. The color photos are okay, having a few of each tree would be helpful, so it could give a habit and close-up photo. In the beginning there is a section describing different categories of trees such as ‘The Heath Family’. I found this part helpful as well to learn more about many of the members of these groups in Florida. Like all his books, Gil Nelson has an extensive ‘feeling’ for the plants of Florida. The part that most frustrated me was a lack of any sort of key, meaning that I had to at least vaguely know any plant that I saw. Darn. Also, the descriptions while good, were rather short. But I guess that helps keep this book to a good carrying size. All in all a useful book, as long as I have a tree key nearby.

9.Trees of Northern Florida-Kurz/Godfrey-Looking through this book now, I wonder why I didn’t use it more while in Florida. It has keys to the genera, then species. It has a detailed description of each species listed, and some useful simple black and white illustrations. I tried it once or twice while down there, but the keys didn’t work for me. But sitting here now it looks obvious that I should take it, and use it, when I go back to Gainesville, and use it alongside other tree guides.

10.Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses-Co-op extension-Athens, GA-Once again I brought this along and rarely used it, but it covers the thing it covers like none other. And that is the very common lawn weeds. It would be handy if every area had and updated copy of this book, because it will usually identify the plants right outside of whatever building I am teaching in. I shall continue to bring.

11.Wildflowers-Parker-While the title doesn’t state it, a red label stuck to the outside of the cover does “Florida’s Roadside Wildflowers”, which is what it is. But with its old-school not very good color photographs, I should probably leave this book at home, for most of the photos could probably be found elsewhere (Bell/Taylor?), but I have not tested this hypothesis.