While I do have some online resources I use quite a bit, there is nothing like looking something up in a heavy book. It is just really a pleasure to page through, use the index and look at the pictures, lists or diagrams. There is no lag time for information to load. The stack of books next to my desk always includes James Payne Smith Jr.’s Vascular Plant Families. I’m sad to say it is getting a little outdated. Written in 1977, it lacks some of the finer points that new systemics methods have brought to light. Nonetheless, it is a great overview of plant families with clear illustrations.
I also love Gleason and Cronquist’s Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. However, I now reside outside of its range, so also consult Hitchcock and Cronquist’s Flora of the Pacific Northwest.
For field guides, I have Pojar and Mackinnon’s Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Almost all the information in my plant of the day entries about plant uses by native costal people comes from this book. It’s so good, readable in fact. My only complaint is that it doesn’t cover more plants. Often one plant will be mentioned only as a footnote in another plant’s entry. For instance, when I wanted to find out about the blue elderberry, the only information was a sentence under the red elderberry description.
Another book always within arm’s reach is the Dictonary of Plant Names (Timber Press.) I use it to confirm families and find the origin of botanical names.
My bible this year though is Sunset’s Western Garden Book (new edition coming out soon). That, and Ray and Jan McNeilan’s The Pacific Northwest Gardener’s Book of Lists are the two books I most frequently consult when I am at work. Yeah, and Dirr’s Trees.
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