University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.
1989 (reprint).  Lawrence Newcomb.  Little, Brown and Co.  softcover.

One of the easiest and most accurate field guides to wildflowers of the Northeast and North Central states that you might find.  A simple key based on basic flower and plant parts leads you to a three-digit code, which leads you to the possible choices complete with accurate line drawings.  Quick and easy for the lay person, devoid of difficult botanical terms, this system and book includes wildflowers, flowering shrubs and vines.  The fact it is still in print after several decades, and still as accurate, attests to its popularity and usefulness.

This was the book I learned wildflowers with in graduate school at Cornell, and have used since to refresh my memory each year.  The classification system is really simple.  The first digit of the code refers to number of flower parts, such as 6.  The next number refers to leaf type, such as 3 for alternate leaves of wildflowers.  Then the third number to leaf characteristic, such as 4 for divided leaves.  So the code here as you quickly determine from the inside cover would be 634.  Go to this in the key and you are directed to a page with the choices and drawings.  Then just look at the easily read descriptions to determine if yellow flowers if it is a Ranunculus (Buttercup) or Trollius (Globeflower).  Perhaps if white flowers it is a Achillea (Yarrow) or Actaea  (Baneberry).  As you can see many of these "wildflowers" are also found as cultivars in the perennial garden, so this book would be useful identifying flowers there as well.

Each plant includes distinguishing key features of the plant, where it is found, and what family it is a member.  Names are first given as common, then as scientific, again with emphasis on the amateur user and not the professional botanist.  Drawings are so precise, I've even been able to count and match numbers of teeth or indentations on leaf edges!

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