Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi: A review

Wildflowers of TexasWildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On Earth Day, it seems appropriate to consider some of the gifts that Earth gives us. One of the loveliest and at the same time most useful of these is wildflowers.

If you are an admirer of wildflowers, you know very well that you need a field guide to help you identify what you see. If you live in Texas and/or want to know about the wildflowers of this state, one of the very best guides you can pick up is Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi.

I got my copy of this book several years ago on a visit to that shrine to Texas wildflowers, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, and it has been well-thumbed over the years. It is my go-to guide for figuring out what I am seeing along the roadways and byways of the state, as well as, sometimes, in my own backyard.

There are more than 5,000 species of flowering plants identified in the state and this revised edition of the book which I own has information about 482 of the state's most common wildflower species that are found in its major vegetation zones. It is a big state and it contains at least seven distinct vegetation zones: the mountains of the west, swamplands in the east, piney woods, desert, coastal plain, the semitropical Rio Grande Valley, and the Panhandle. These zones encompass a dizzying variety of wildflowers.

The book is organized in an easy-to-use, straightforward fashion. Flowers are divided in sections by color, first of all, since that is their most obvious characteristic. There are four sections: white-green, yellow-orange, red-pink, and blue-purple. One can easily turn to the section that best describes the color of the blossoms he/she sees and thumb through it in order to locate the plant.

Within each color section, the plants are organized alphabetically by family, then genus and species. There is a color picture of the flower on the left-hand page and the right-hand page contains information about the plant's bloom period, range and habitat, its botanical description, and other information, such as its therapeutic, culinary, or other traditional uses. It really could hardly be any more practical and useful for the average reader or lover of wildflowers.    

The writer herself is a vascular plant field taxonomist, as well as a freelance writer and photographer. Her expertise and her passion for the plants is evident. She has produced a guide that is particularly useful to those of us who are amateur naturalists, who do not have extensive botanical training but who do have a sincere interest in these plants and a desire to protect their habitats in the wild as well as to use them wherever possible in our own gardens.

Personally, I have many of the wildflowers featured here in my own garden and I'm always looking for spots where I can add more of them. Since bringing this book home with me, I have depended on it to help me identify those wild plants which I can successfully incorporate into my habitat garden plan, making it an extension of the natural environment around me.  The book is as much an indispensable garden tool for me as is my favorite hoe.


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