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4.4 out of 5 stars58
4.4 out of 5 stars
Format: HardcoverChange
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2009
I confess to being a field guide addict, so when I this new Collins Flower Guide at the Birdfair, I knew I had to get it. The previous titles in this series - birds, butterflies and trees - are the definitive guides to their respective groups; indeed Collins Bird Guide, in my opinion, sets the standard as the best field guide to an avifauna anywhere in the world. So despite the price, it was not hard to part with the money.

Having field-tested this book at the tail end of the flowering season, I am certainly not disappointed. The book is billed as "the most complete guide to the flowers of Britain and Europe", and it probably is. Some 1,900 species are described and the grasses and ferns are treated to full colour plates. The attractive features of the other guides in the Collins series - plates and text on a single spread, clear type-face and layout, compact form, excellent illustrations - are all here. The plates are particularly satisfying: beautifully painted, they look to be the most accurate yet included in a guide of this type. And, as in other plant guides, keys are provided as a more structured way to identify flowers.

But this book faces some pretty stiff competition, namely from Blamey, Fitter & Fitter's Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland and Rose's Wild Flower Key. How does it stand up? I'm a sucker for Marjorie Blamey's illustrations, so I have most of her books and I love Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland, not least as an armchair flora. Rose has long (at least for the quarter century since I took any botany classes) been recognised as the most accurate illustrated field flora - the botanist's guide of choice. Despite its fine illustrations and keys, I am not sure that this current guide can rival either of them. I took both Rose and the Collins guide out into Norfolk and ran several plants - tricky things like umbellifers and crucifers - through the keys and Rose performed flawlessly, whereas the new guide was a little murkier. Some of the illustrations are quite "washed out" or at least not as saturated as others, leading to some loss of details - notably in the Asteraceae in my copy. Opened the book at the oaks, I noticed that the Sessile Oak caption is missing - admittedly just a detail. In the end though, much as I warm to the new guide, I find that I am carrying Rose rather than the Collins guide into the field when I want a reference I can depend on. Perhaps it's just that when I pick up a guide, Rose fits more easily into my pocket and is a fair bit lighter.

In sum, this is a guide that the plant enthusiast will want to have, but if you already possess a trusted field guide like Rose, you may not want to pay for the more expensive new Collins Flower Guide, beautiful as the illustrations may be. Having said that, I have no regrets at having this handsome new field guide on my shelves - the more field guides the better.

Chris Sharpe, 4 November 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0-00-710621-9
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2010
If you're seeking a simple field guide, this will be useful up to a point. It covers grasses and sedges too, which the better The Wild Flower Key (Revised Edition) - How to identify wild plants, trees and shrubs in Britain and Ireland does not. It also includes a variety of naturalised plants that might otherwise throw you on a field trip.

But the main problem with this guide is the great variability in its illustrations. Some are pin-sharp whilst others are soft and fuzzy. This is clearly a difference in artistic style. I think Collins would have done well to have user-tested the artists first and refined their choice, even if it meant waiting another year to produce the book. The illustrations of impossibly small bedstraws, for example, are crystal clear. Whilst vast numbers of the Compositae - cudweeds for example - need a hand lens even in the full-sized hardback. (The full-sized edition, incidentally, is a 3.2kg monster that can only be browsed at a table.)

Happily, the grasses are well illustrated and on a par with the illustrations in the Colour Identification Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of the British Isles and North Western Europe. Overall, it's a real shame that the illustratively strong parts of this guide are let down by the weaker paintings. But for the money, it's a steal. Go ahead and get one.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2010
I bought this because I had heard very good feedback about the hardback but wanted something to take into the field. However it is a bit heavy for that and one still needs Stace.
The main problem is that the paper back is too small for the illustrations to really show well and even under a lens (which appears to be necessary) they only come up blurry.
I will probably buy the hardback, but will make sure I see a copy first.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2009
I brought this book as an update to Keble-Martin's "Concise British Flora" which I have always used. I prefer illustrated guides to photographic ones - you can't beat a white background for giving the best sillouette of a plant's outline. It's brief descriptions of individual species are helpful, grouping them as you would expect by family. The keys are also invaluable for identifying plants to species level. However, I think a more suitable title for the book would have been "Illustrated Wild Flower Guide/Key" not just "Flower Guide", which may present initial confusion to those looking for guides on cultivated plants. Minor mistakes, such as the omission of the Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) inflorescence, and the small circles which give magnified detail to diagnostic features, seem careless. The book also skips over difficult to identify species like Hieracium, giving only one generalised illustation, yet gives space to cultivated Peony (Paeonia mascula), an isolated example of which grows on Flat Holm island. I would hardly describe this species as "naturalised", when it is known only from a single occurrence. This is not a field guild, being far to cumbersome and inappropriately bound, but it is probably the most extensive illustrated guide to British flora currently available, so will make a useful up-to-date reference guide for many. It may also be of interest to know that this guide will soon be available in a large format addition, so the illustrated plates that have been reduced in size for this addition maybe clearer to see. Some of the earlier mistakes will also hopefully be corrected.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2011
I have been absolutely bowled over by this huge book. I cannot praise it enough! Even at its huge depth and quite a weight I will consider carrying it into the field on appropriate 'flower based days'. The illustrations I thought at first were quite small then with a closer look I saw how accurate they are - the depictions in most cases make it possible to recognise the whole plant and only need a closer inspection where plants are very similar. I love the 'little circles' around pertinent points where there are close similarities - draws the eye immediately to the bits you need to compare. Similar species have their leaves shown clearly behind the flower and this has allowed me to name a species that has been puzzling me for a couple of years! And thats just the illustrations - each section has a 'proper' key to wade through for those with detailed botanical knowledge. Add to this the tree, rushes, sedges and fern sections and this really is the most complete guide published yet - and the easiest to use - if not to carry! In fact I like it so much I have bought a second one for a friend!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2011
I have a large collection of wildflower ID books to help me in my work. So far this title is one of the best. Not the most compact, but by far one of the most useful and easy-to-use of them all.

It has logical, well laid-out identification keys with good images of all of the plant species.

Well worth purchasing if you're into your wildflowers!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2010
I hope Amazon publish this review when I admit I picked up a brand new copy of this wonderful tome at a book fair in St Andrews for only 8.99! I am and will continue to be a regular customer of Amazon but you can't look a virtual gift horse in the mouth. My one criticism is that of the washed out yellows in some of the illustrations especially in the Asteraceae section as noted by Chris Sharpe in his review. (The sessile oak caption is also missing in my copy as noted by said gentleman.) I wonder if Collins had remaindered a large stock of these volumes with washed out colours to go to book fairs while they print a new run which has this art reproduction problem overcome. While no-one buying this book needs help in identifying the dandelion, it seems remarkable that our most familiar and infamous (if you are a gardener) wild flower should be depicted with such a miserably faded image.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
The title on the front cover is misleading. Flowers of Britain and Europe, on the back cover the guide is only for Britain and Northern Europe, which does not cover Spain. An excellent book otherwise
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2012
A super work with 1900 species described and huge numbers of minor species and variants illustrated. You'll never regret getting this either as your main wild flower book, or as a joint primary wild flower book with another.

The cover is not too durable so if you plan to take it out in the field (as you will) do plasticise over the cover, with some covering plastic that can be got for just pennies at a supermarket.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2012
The book was delivered within 2 days of ordering, in excellent condition as usual. This book is a must for those just interested in identifying the wildflowers around the British and Irish countryside. It is a bit on the heavy side to use as a field guide, but if you do as I do, and photograph the flowers you see, it is a good reference for identification of the photo when you get home.
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