CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide

By Linda S. Nagay
2016, High Country Artworks, LLC
ISBN: 978-0-984040636-7-3
$14.00; 272 pages

If you’re like me you don’t enjoy only mushrooms, but many elements of our natural world including wildflowers. This expanded 2nd edition includes over 270 Rocky Mountain wildflowers that you may find along with Amanitas and LBMs. The introduction is concise and stresses the importance and utilitarianism of using scientific versus common names (though scientific names aren’t listed in the index). The Colorado-Southern Rocky Mountain Life Zones diagram is important and useful, and includes elevations, but I would’ve preferred a map of ecosystems such as that found in Vera Evenson’s guide to Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region. The inclusion of more detailed habitats is vital to understanding our natural systems and our region is so diverse and interesting (grasslands, pinyon-juniper woodland, montane forest, tundra, riparian, etc.), that I think it’s worth emphasizing. Under species descriptions, both life zone and habitat are noted and a nice introductory note to the reader includes the importance of treading softly on slow-growing alpine plants.

The guide is a convenient size (6” x 4”) with good quality paper that could stand multiple sittings at the bottom of a backpack or mushroom basket, and includes a handy-dandy ruler on the back cover. As with many flower guides, species are arranged by color-coded tabs beginning with white/cream. Photos are of good quality and often include an inset for added detail. Line art appears little, but when it does, the watercolor drawings are appealing and useful where used (i.e., parts of a flower, leaf shapes). Per the introduction, flowers are chosen by most common and noticeable with a few interesting species thrown in. Emphasis is made on native Rocky Mountain species.

Individual descriptions are concise and include common name, species, and family. Of particular use to the newbie is both a common description for the family in addition to the scientific name, e.g., Boulder Raspberry, Rose Family, Rosaceae. Genus species names are correctly italicized and introduction makes note of scientific source of names and new classifications where appropriate.

When comparing entries to other guides, using the lovely native Colorado thistle Cirsium scariosum as an example, authors reference two common names, Elk Thistle and Colorado Thistle. The second name appears in the Alpine Flower Finder by Janet Wingate & Loraine Yeattes, so it appears the authors are familiar with local authorities and aim to be comprehensive. Synonyms for scientific names were also included where appropriate (King’s Crown, for example).

I enjoyed the brief descriptions (one image and description per page) and the little tidbits that covered various aspects of a particular species including special notes on habitat, ethnobotanical details (peoples’ use of plants), importance to wildlife, and history. Flowering times are also included.

One change I would’ve preferred is that the index at the back of the book lists only common names (alphabetically by color). I think inclusion of scientific names would have been a nice touch. Whether one is a newbie to botany or not, I think encouraging folks to learn, or at least become more familiar with, scientific nomenclature is always a good idea. That goes doubly so for the fungal fan!

All in all, this a good little guide and the fact that both the author and photographer (her husband) live in Colorado adds to the validity of the book. It’s clear they are passionate about nature, wildflowers, and Colorado. If you enjoy wildflowers and want to start learning about them for this region (Central Rocky Mountains of Wyoming to Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado), this guide is a great one to add to your library. Why not bring it to Telluride next year?!

— Review by Virginia Till
— Originally published in Fungi