University of California Press natural history guides are always welcome additions to a nature lover’s library, and the newest in the series is no exception. Trees and Shrubs of California, by John D. Stuart and John O. Sawyer, is the first field guide dedicated to both types of woody California plants. The guide is divided into two major sections: “Conifers” and “Broadleaf Trees and Shrubs”; identifications are based on dichotomous keys at the beginning of each. All of the state’s native tree species are included, as well as the most common shrubs. According to the preface, there are simply too many shrub species to list them all; the common forest, woodland, and chaparral shrubs are the most thoroughly covered. Most entries include beautiful line drawings by Andrea J. Pickart range maps, and written text that describes identifyingcharacteristics, habitat, range, and interesting facts. Using adichotomous key can be frustrating for those who aren’t familiar withthe practice, but it’s fun once you get the hang of it, and it’s theonly way to make a species identification of many plants. If you needmore help than the book provides, check with your local chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Some chapters (e.g., the Yerba Buena in San Francisco) offer free hands-on keying sessions before their monthly meetings. Chapters can be reached through the CNPS website at www.cnps.org.
Bay Nature magazine ◦ October-December 2001