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 Ontario Wildflowers: 101 Wayside Flowers by Linda Kershaw, 2002, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton AB, Canada


Review by *G. A. Bickel

This book is a field guide and an introduction to the identification and appreciation of wildflowers. As defined in the subtitle, only 101 wayside flowers (found in Ontario) fall within the scope of this guide. Wayside wildflowers are those that are found in abundance along highways, pastures, orchards and abandoned lots. A single page is devoted to each species and includes: two color photographs (habit and close-up), notes on natural history and human uses, and a verbal description of the plant. The book introduction provides discussions on identifying wildflowers, guidelines for picking, risks (poisonings and allergic reactions), naming conventions, and use of a key. The book also features an illustrated glossary.
 
Linda Kershaw has a clear and simple mission in mind for this book - to get people of all ages to appreciate wildflowers. She chooses accessible, easily identifiable wildflowers and provides interesting discussions about each. Those choices help to minimize the frustration of wildflower identification often encountered when using more comprehensive field guides. The sections found in the introduction are very informative to the beginner. The illustrated key to the 101 flowers described in the book, serves as a simple example for understanding how to navigate a dichotomous key. The book also offers an excellent perspective on wildflower picking and collecting. One unique section, entitled: "Fun With Flowers", provides some ideas on arts and crafts using dried flowers. All of these features makes this book very enjoyable and educational and should stimulate the interest of many potential naturalists.
 
*Grant has a passion for native orchids, is an excellent photographer and loves nothing better than slogging through bogs in pursuit of new plant species.

Review by *Lauren Trute


Ontario Wildflowers will be an excellent book for the beginner naturalist and gardener alike. The pictures are excellent, and the close-ups are an added bonus. The book is organized by family and flower structure, which is practical, but may be confusing to beginners. The colour guide to the flowers at the beginning of the bookis a quick 'match the picture' reference and should be especially useful. The majority of the information for each plant consists of traditional or historical uses.

In my opinion, two things hinder the book's usefulness: the use of common names and the lack of habitat information. The common names used in the book are not necessarily those found in Ontario Plants (the MNR's official list of Ontario plants) or other field guides to Ontario flora. As a result, a plant may be more difficult to look up, if the user is not familiar with the scientific name.
Since many of the flowers are 'wayside' flowers that have adapted to many different environments, it would be difficult to describe every habitat in which they are found. However, information such as soil type (e.g. sandy) or associated forest or plant species (e.g. coniferous forests) would have been a useful addition.
The quality of the photographs in Ontario Wildflowers makes this book a worthwhile addition to a plant guide collection, however, it would not be my first choice to take in the field.
 
*Lauren is a biologist and Species-at-Risk Technician with the MNR, Pembroke District. She enjoys identifying creepy-crawlies and things that eat them, especially if they have wings.

Review by *Manson Fleguel

When I was asked to review this book, I thought to myself , "I know almost nothing about plants in our area, so this should be a learning experience for me", and it has been! The following comments are from a complete novice in this field.

The book has an inviting cover, having a white Trillium on a green background on the front cover and a mini grouping of the main flower types (in colour) on the back. The price, $16.95, is clearly shown there also. The spine shows the author as Linda Kershaw.
As a field guide, the first 5 pages inside show thumbnail pictures of all 101 flowers inside for speedy identification without having to page the entire book to find the particular plant you are interested in. The flowers are arranged logically from orange, through yellow, white, pink, red, mauve, purple and blue. A page number is indicated below each thumbnail for more detailed information about the species.
The next few pages deal with tips on identification, issues such as picking or only enjoying, scientific versus common names and the traditional uses made ofthese 'weeds'. A key to identification is next with 8 pages dedicated to teaching novices how to classify and identify a particular plant they may be looking at. This section guides one to ask, "Is the flower large or small?" The answer sends the reader to a second stage where another series of questions guides him to more closely examine the structure of the flower, and further questions till only a very few species are possible as the answer. 101 pages are dedicated to larger pictures of each of the species in the book. The colour pictures are excellent, there is a biography of each as well as information on the general plant structure and height. Timing of flowering is given, together with possible fruit, the habitat where the plant is likely to be found and its distribution in North America.
The final pages are dedicated to a glossary and index. I had taken the time to look at the book before a trip to the East Coast. A few species somehow stuck in my mind and one, Common Tansy, was present on almost every roadside there and even on the hillside just below the fortifications in old Quebec City! Previously, I would have thought it another form of Goldenrod! Another, the Spotted Knapweed was very common in large patches in Nova Scotia. To my eye, it looked somewhat like a field of Canada Thistle with its mauve blossoms nodding in the breeze.
The book is written clearly, the pictures are realistic, allowing the reader to get a sense of the plant size and leaf and stem makeup as well as the colour of the flower. Plants that could be hazardous, such as Poison Ivy or Stinging Nettles are shown in their own section as such. Other plants, which could be uncomfortable to the touch, such as Canada Thistle, are noted in the text for that species. The price is certainly reasonable for a book such as this. There is a soft cover that allows one to use it in the field easily.
On the negative side, the book only has 101 species. This limits its use as a field guide, even though it covers most of the common species. Also, size is 5.5 by 8.5 inches, a bit large My perfect guide would be a full colour, soft cover, and small book containing ALL the possible species in Ontario. My only comparison book is the Peterson guide which, I presume has all the species, but has many of the plant species as black and white drawings (albeit in the appropriate colour section of the book).
My overall opinion: The book will be a beautiful addition to anyone's library.
 
*Manson is a birder by passion but likes to know what he's stepping on.

 

 

 

 

 

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