Most helpful positive review
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Easiest book for everyone
on October 25, 2002
I've been teaching in the outdoors using field guides with novices for 18 years, so I offer this advice to assist beginners in choosing a wildflower guide. I have used both this book and the Newcomb book and greatly prefer this one, although Newcomb's is very good. Newcomb's uses a series of keys, which I guess some people find more "sophisticated." Although the key in Newcombs isn't hard to use, I find that the Peterson guide is faster and easier to use in the field. I have also observed that beginners are less likely to make mistakes using the Peterson wildflower guide. The big plus of the Peterson book is the identification system. The flowers are first arranged by color and the book is color coded. Although wild plants may not always be showing their flower colors, 9 times out of ten when the amateur is identifying a flowering plant, it will be in bloom. You can use the Peterson guide to learn the key characterisitics of a blooming plant so that later on when it is not blooming you will still be able to find it in the book and recoginze it.
In the next stage of the Peterson wildflower guide's organization, the plants are arranged by similar visual characteristics. There is a simple outline and description of this system at the beginning of the book. The book utilizes helpful icons, which are featured at the tops of all the descriptive pages for quick thumb-through reference. I have found this icon system very helpful in teaching plant identification because it provides a systematic approach that the beginner can pick up quickly and easily. The Peterson system greatly facilitates intial accuracy of identification at the level of plant family. Once you learn the system of what to look for when observing a plant, the icons allow speed and efficiency when using the book in the field.
At the final stage of identification, the species level, the Peterson guide has excellent written descriptions and the important subtle differences between species are well highlighted, with both text and arrows on the drawings. As other reviewers have stated, the Peterson book has more illustrations than Newcomb, and the highlighted habitat/range descriptions also help in quickly placing a plant. The black and white illustrations are not bothersome since you already know the flower color, and line drawings show key characteristics clearly. The use of illustrations instead of photos is always preferred in a field guide, even though photos seem like a good idea at first glance. A good illustrator shows the plant in the best light and makes sure the key features are visible and prominent.