Knowing Plants

I have to laugh at the memory of my college botany professor who spat out the word "Ecologists" like a reference to a lowdown caste of people. Ecologists, apparently, have the nerve to bring pieces of plants lacking flowers and/or seeds to the herbarium for identification, claiming that knowing the plant was essential to some ecological mission. The professor's point was that it is pointless to identify plants without these important parts, but each day, foresters, range conservationists, wildlife biologists, and a host of other resource professionals find ourselves in the field identifying the newly sprouted, the dried stalks from last season, the basal rosette of some kind of aster, and we don't have the luxury of being able to come back when the plant is blooming.
This web page is a resource for ecologists and those who love plants, to help us in our daily struggles to become intimate with the plant world.
 Plant Association Course (Springerville, AZ August 2010): Bruce and George's powerpoint presentations are attached to this page. Scroll to the bottom to find them.
Mary's Favorite Web Sites
Here the links to places I go regularly to learn more about plants, especially keeping up with the nomenclature of plants, but also learning about the uses of plants.
    Leave it up to government (especially the NRCS) to standardize common names. Despite my distaste for breaking down the regional cultures of naming plants, this website provides current taxonomy, range information, and general charateristics of most plants in North America.
    When I want to learn about a plant, this is the first place I go. If I am lucky, it's been treated here, which means a comprehensive literature review in an easy-to-access format.
    This site really kind of amazes me...doesn't seem right that this information is so easy to find.
    For years I have been facilitating Plant Association courses in the Southwest based on potential natural vegetation. Here is a link to our future...plant community classification based on existing vegetation.
    A superb collection of forestry pictures. Okay, it's not really a plant ID resource, but it's a cool website.
Mary's Favorite (and not-so-favorite) Field Guides
for the Southwest- general
Flowering Plants of New Mexico by Robert Dewitt Ivey
There are basicly two schools of thought on field guides: color pictures or line drawings. Ivey proves that line drawings are the ideal way to identify plants. He once told me that before he draws a plant, he keys it out, and then in the drawing he emphasizes the features mentioned in the key. No wonder this book is considered the plant "bible" of the Southwest.
Plants of Arizona by Anne Orth Epple
This is a very nice version of the other line of thought in field guides...color pictures. There are lots of them, but darn if the photographer doesn't keep focusing on the flower, when most of the year all I have to go by are the basal leaves.
Indicator Plants of Southwest Forests and Woodland (in prep, Stuever)
This book is way overdue to be formally published. But it isn't a book yet. Still, it has been growing as a handout for the Plant Associations of Southwest Forests and Woodlands courses for many, many years. Someday, I'll finish it up and formally make it available.
A Handbook of Rare and Endemic Plants of New Mexico, New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee
for Trees (Southwest emphasis)
Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico by Jack L. Carter
New Mexico is really lucky that Jack Carter moved here. This was his first contribution to field guides of our state. It is now an essential part of my road library. Ready to tackle willows? It is possible with this resource in hand.
Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands written by Frances H. Elmore; drawings by Jeanne R. Janish.
A classic publication of the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, this is the book I learned my shrubs with...carried it all summer of 1978 as a Philmont Ranger.
Southwestern Trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona by Elbert L. Little, Jr.
This is a government pamphlet, Agricultural Handbook No. 9, long ago out of print...but in my home office somewhere I have a set of masters to make if you are willing to help clean up my office....  Seriously though, although the scientific names are outdated, the information is still quite valid.
Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas by A. Michael Powell
Note to self: don't go to southern NM without this book.
A Natural History of Western Trees by Donald Culross Peattie
This is tree literature at it's finest.
for Grasses (Southwest emphasis)
Grasses of New Mexico by Kelly Allred
This is the best. Even people like me can use the keys with minimal frustration (especially with Harrington's aide- see "How to Identify Grasses" below). The hardest part about using this book is finding it. If you can't find it, check with your county agent.
North American Range Plants (4th edition)  by James Stubbendieck, Stephan L. Hatch, and Charles H. Butterfield 
I am emotionally connected to this book because I learned my range plants in college using earlier editions of copied pages in three ring notebooks that eventually became this book. I can find stuff if this book, I don't know if that works for those of you who did not have the pages drilled into you while competing in college events.
Manual of Grasses of the United States by A. S. Hitchcock.
This reprint of an early government document is a classic. The source book of the same ol' grass drawings that show up all over the place.
for Wildflowers (Southwest emphasis)
Southwestern (and Texas) Wildflowers (Peterson Field Guide), Niehaus/Ripper/Savage
Flowers and Shrubs of the Mojave Desert written by Janice Emily Bowers; illustrations by Brian Wignall
Flowers of the Southwest Deserts written by Natt N. Dodge; drawings by Jeanne R. Janish
Other volumes published by Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. Quality books.
Common Southwestern Native Plants: An Identification Guide. by Jack L. Carter, Martha A. Carter, and Donna J. Stevens
Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing their Natural History by Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire
Arizona Flora, Kearney & Peebles
I thank Doug MacPhee who has loaned me his copy of this classic for almost two decades...let me know, Doug, when you want your book back.
The new flora of Arizona is being published in pieces by the Arizona and Nevada Academy of Science.
A Utah Flora, S.L. Welsh, N.D. Atwood, S. Goodrich, & L.C. Higgins
Although many of the species in Utah are different from the species in New Mexico...I often start with this volume when trying to identify an unknown plant, and it usually gets me to the right genus.
Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope  William A. Weber
Colorado Flora, Western Slope  William A. Weber
Weber is almost controversial, which make perusing these Floras almost entertaining.
Yeah, I know, there is a Flora of New Mexico. I have it, but I don't use it. I am waiting for Dr. Allred to write one.
for general Plant Identification
Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary by James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris
This is the one book one must have, if attempting to use a flora without first having had 12 hours of uplevel botany courses. The definitions are accompanied by illustrations, and a picture does count for much better communication.
How to Identify Grasses and Grasslike Plants by H.D. Harrington.
    "A grass can be "glumey" in more ways than one,
    When it's classification remains to be done;
    You pull off the parts, and soon feel your age
    Chasing them over the microscope stage!"
Any field guide that starts with poetry steps a notch up in my book...yet this book isn't really a field guide at all, and used alone would never help you identify a grass. But it does explain what all the other grass guides are talking about.
How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington, Illustrated by L.W. Durrell.
Taxonomic Terminology of the Higher Plants by H. I. Featherly
Published in 1954 by the Iowa State College Press, this list of terms and definitions is still useful. I bought my copy, signed by the author, for less than a dollar at library book sale. The pages have that old paper aroma.
for Plant Community information
Biotic Communities: Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico  edited by David E. Brown 
multi-discipline field guides
Deserts (The Audubon Society Nature Guides) James A. MacMahon
Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides) edited by Stephen Whitney
The Southern Rockies: A Sierra Club Naturalist's Guide by Audrey DeLella Benedict
for medicinal, food, and cultural uses
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province by William W. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney
Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners by William W. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney
NIGOSDZAN BIL DAGODOTL'IZHI Western Apache Trees and Shrubs, compiled from Apache Elders by Vincent Randall and Jeanette Cassa
Mary's notes on field plant identification
From Indicator plants of Southwest Forests and Woodlands - ahh, my field guide that has been "in progress" since 1991 or earlier... here are some the "famous" charts from that project for sorting out various similar species.
AZ & NM Junipers
AZ & NM Oaks
Mary Stuever,
Aug 9, 2010, 10:00 PM
Mary Stuever,
Aug 9, 2010, 10:03 PM