Book Review: Missouri Wildflowers

Today's book is different than the rest in that it's a reference, field guide, and has been around for quite a while. It's Missouri Wildflowers by Edgar Denison.


Please don't think "I don't live in Missouri" and stop reading, or think that this book wouldn't be helpful to you. Besides containing information on dozens of plants that are found in many parts of this country, this book is a model of what a great reference book should be.


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Based on the copyright dates, this book was originally published in 1972, with this sixth edition having been published in 2008. I'd love to see one of the original editions to see how it's evolved over time, and how long it took to get to the almost perfect format of this edition.

Published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, this book has been donated to the MDC to "further the cause of nature appreciation and conservation". Wonderful!

Like many references, this book starts with explanations of the appropriate botanical terminology:



Very clearly stated and easy to absorb. I'm not saying I've got them all memorized, but it's easy enough to bookmark these pages and refer back to them when needed.

The main section of the book contains the descriptions and photos of the flowers, and isn't constrained to just perennials and annuals -- trees and shrubs are included here. If it produces a noticeable flower, it's in here.


The blooms are organized not only by color -- which is pretty much standard for these types of books -- but also by bloom time. The plants that bloom first are listed first, which could be helpful in identification. I think it's a really nice idea.

The plants that are part of the Missouri Prairie Foundation's "Grow Native!" initiative are noted with the "GN" logo:


That's helpful because many of these plants are available at area nurseries and garden centers during the growing season.

I should point out that the photographs are large and quite good, and every plant in this section has a photo with it. There are a few other photos too:


Can I say that it's pretty exciting to see a photo in a book and recognize the spot in which it was taken -- I've been to this glade in the Shaw Nature Reserve during bluebonnet season!

After the main part of the book there is a fairly large section devoted to helping us identify plant families. If I remember correctly, 80% of the wildflower species in Missouri belong to only 24 families of plants.


I haven't used this section yet, probably because it doesn't contain pretty photos. It's every bit as descriptive and useful as the more colorful main section though.

There's not much else to say about this book, except that since it's published by the MDC, it's priced at an incredible $14. It's not some pamphlet either, as it's over 250 pages long. You can order it and other great books at the MDC Nature Shop. Interesting that this book is #3 on their bestseller list right now. I'll have to check out the two above it...


In summary, this is one of the best "reference" books I've seen. Although focused on plants found in Missouri, it's applicable to a large number of other states too, or even those who are plant people who live in completely different climates. Photos are large and beautiful, and the arrangement by flowering date seems to be a nice touch. The price can't be beat.


My four book review questions:

Am I glad to have it on my bookshelf?    Yes!
Would I be disappointed if I misplaced it it?   Yes!
Will I read it again?    It's not a book I'd sit down and read, but I'll use it over and over -- Yes!
Would I give it as a gift?   Yes!

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Alan  – (February 23, 2014 at 7:06 PM)  

Should I assume from the lack of comments that nobody has seen this book? It's really one of the best (if not *the* best) field guides available.

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