Introduction to California Spring Wildflowers of the Foothills, Valleys, and Coast, Revised Edition, by Philip A. Munz, edited by Dianne Lake and Phyllis M. Faber, University of California Press, 2004, 302 pages, $16.95 (www.ucpress.edu)
Introduction to Shore Wildflowers of California, Oregon, and Washington, Revised Edition, by Philip A. Munz, edited by Dianne Lake and Phyllis M. Faber, University of California Press, 2003, 245 pages, $16.95 (www.ucpress.edu)
In the early 1960s, the late Philip A. Munz, California botanist and creator of an authoritative technical volume on the California flora, wrote a series of four small California wildflower identification guides for the general public. In Munz’s words: “It seemed to me that …I… owed something to the layman, the person who has no botanical training but who likes to know something of his surroundings in nature.” Though continuously in print since their original publication, these four volumes have been updated for the first time and reissued in the UC Press California Natural History Guides series. Editors Phyllis M. Faber, Dianne Lake, and Diane L. Renshaw have remained true to the intent and form of the original guides while making them easier to use and improving them in many ways.
In each book, wildflowers of the region are arranged by color, with line drawings or new color photographs to which the reader can compare and match flowers in the wild. A few sentences of relatively jargon-free text next to each photo or drawing describe the plant and the geographic range in which it occurs. Scientific names conform to the current standard authority (The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, 1993). Each book features an updated version of Munz’s original introduction to the habitats and plants of the region as well as an informative new section on relevant plant communities written by the late Dr. Robert Ornduff. To keep the books compact and the range of plants broad, Munz included representative examples of wildflower groups rather than all members of any particular group. The editors have maintained this approach but also have added many common species to the new editions. Like the originals, the revised guides are great beginning references for California wildflower watchers. The series also includes volumes on the state’s desert and mountain wildflowers.