29 December 2011

Wildflowers of OK and Wildflower Wonders of the World

Even though spring officially begins in March, wildflowers can appear before that. Many of the early ones appear with the first warms days, hugging the ground and creating a field of color that lasts only a few short days. Others wait until the sun warms the soil completely.

For 30-years Patricia Folley has been wandering Oklahoma back roads, observing, recording and collecting wildflowers. Her new book, “The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers” is the first of its kind, with detailed descriptions and photographs she took.

The plants collected on her travels reside in the Oklahoma Herbarium collection and are listed in the “Flora of Oklahoma” project.

Oklahoma is unique among the 50-states. It has Rocky Mountain foothills, hardwood forests, rivers and streams, low mountains, sand dunes, cypress swamps, swaths of rangeland, pastureland, and more than ten ecoregions.

There are tallgrass, mixed-grass, and shortgrass prairies in the state, and elevations ranging from 300-to-5,000 feet. That diversity creates the enormous variety of wildflower species available to hikers.

Folley’s book includes two-hundred of Oklahoma’s most common wildflower species that are seen along roadsides and in parks. There are photos of live plants for each entry, with its bloom time, colors, size, habitat, geographic location, common name, botanical name, and plant family.

With this 238-page paperback in hand as you walk through your own property, go for walks, hikes or running, you will be able to identify what you are observing along the way.

Start at the beginning, where Folley explains each type of plant. For example grass family (pages 18-23), lily family (pages 35-42), or legume family (pages 91 to 115). Each plant family is generally described and the individual plant photos and detailed descriptions are grouped.

Folley is a herbarium assistant at the University of Oklahoma’s Bebb Herbarium, a member of the Flora of Oklahoma editorial board, and coauthor of the evolving Bio Survey online project (http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu). A two-time former president of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, she writes a monthly nature column for the Norman Transcript and is a technical editor for the Oklahoma Native Plant Record.

“The Guide to Oklahoma Wildflowers” by Patricia Folley, published 2012, by University of Iowa Press, www.uiowapress.org, $40 list price and $24 at online booksellers.

If your wildflower searching takes you outside Oklahoma and indeed outside the United States, you will want to have a copy of, “Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World” by Bob Gibbons.

Gibbons is well-known for his wildflower photographs from around the world and you can see wildflowers from five continents in this one volume. As a tour guide he traveled to over 20 countries, including Ireland, Turkey, South Africa, Iran and Australia, to take photos of the best spots.

Wildflower hotspots in the U.S. include Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier in Washington, Klamath-Siskiyou in Oregon, Crested Butte and San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Tehachapi Range, Anza-Borrego State Park in California.

From Europe’s mountains to Africa’s grassland, the account of each wildflower destination is complete with descriptions of travel to the area with location, reasons to go, when to go, protection status, and a page of site description.

The first site of wildflowers in the spring cheers us. Maybe it is time to travel the world to see them. At the back of the book Gibbons provides Useful Contacts for each country, additional sites to visit, and a list of botanical tour operators.

“Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World” by Bob Gibbons was published 2011, by Princeton University Press, www.press.princeton.edu. 8.5 by 10-inch hardback, 192-pages, 200-color photos. $28 list price and $18 at online booksellers.

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