We use a variety of books to identify the residents and visitors in My Florida Backyard. There are lots of guides to choose from out there, so we thought it might be helpful to tell you about some of the ones we like best. This is our first review, so if there's information we left out that you would find helpful in future reviews, please tell us in the comments.
If you're a butterfly fan, you may already be familiar with the work of Jaret C. Daniels, an entomologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Though in the past his books have focused mainly on butterflies, his new guide is a handy little reference to Florida wildflowers that we highly recommend. Its small size makes it perfect for tucking in a backpack on a hike, and the simple format ensures you can quickly find the information you're looking for.
The book begins with a short introduction to wildflowers. It explains strategies for identifying wildflowers, such as understanding leaf type and attachment, flower type and cluster, and fruit. The icons used in this section are then used throughout the book as the various wildflowers are detailed.
The pure genius of the book, like others published by Adventure Publications, is the way in which it is organized: the wildflowers are broken down by flower color, shown in colored tabs along the side of the pages. When you use this book in the field, you can quickly locate the section where you're most likely to find your plant. The large and detailed pictures are all on the left-hand side, with corresponding information on the facing page.
If you're not completely sure you've identified the flower correctly from the picture, the detailed written descriptions of flower and leaf should help you, along with the bloom time, range, and habitat. For each flower, its native/non-native origin is noted as well.
We have just a few minor quibbles with the book. It would be nice to know if non-natives were considered invasive in the state; you don't want to take time to collect seed from a plant that you really don't want to welcome into your yard. It would also have been helpful to have icons indicating each plant's wildlife value (nectar plant, fruit for birds, etc.). However, this is a field guide, meant to be sleek and portable, so the level of detail is understandably limited.
Our biggest complaint is the lack of a scientific name index (perhaps it was eliminated to save space?). We've learned over and over that common names, especially of wildflowers, can be confusing and contradicting. The ability to look up plants by their scientific name would have been well-worth a few extra pages in the guide.
Overall, though, this book is a really useful little guide to a sometimes overwhelming and baffling subject - Florida wildflowers. We've used it multiple times in the few weeks since we bought it (look for an upcoming post identifying some of the wildflowers in our lawn), and consider it to be well-worth the money. We give it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.