Top critical review
14 people found this helpful
A Comprehensive Guide, but not for beginners
on 11 February 2013
I am a complete novice when it comes to flora, and went for this book after reading various online descriptions and reviews, hailing it as the perfect companion for beginners and botanists alike.
The book is structured brilliantly, with the first few pages being dedicated to explaining field techniques, followed by explanations on various leaf shapes and structures- illustrated by 23 plates at the back of the book. Saying that, I find it hard to believe that any 'beginner' will benefit from the key itself.
Despite being quoted on the blurb as using 'a minimal number of technical terms', the key is littered with abbreviations and words that may be easily navigated by a botanist, but have no meaning whatsoever for a novice like myself. Even the description for a plant as simple as a Bluebell threw me at first- "Lvs 3-6, 0.7-1.6cm wide. Raceme 1-sided. Fls all soon nodding, fragrant; stamens unequal; anthers cream"... ?! I found myself flicking back to the glossary more times than I was flicking through the actual pages of the key!
The key itself is divided into 5 main divisions; Horsetails, Ferns, Clubmoss, Conifers and Flowering Plants, being subsequently split down into seperate groups within each division. Here I find the book is really lacking in illusations; at least a few simple thumbnail images showing examples of the different groups would have made it significantly easier to pinpoint the desired part of the key in the field, rather than having to manually navigate the entire key, everytime.
All in all, I'm sure botanists and experts will find this guide useful from the word go, and will have little problem traversing the key. However, I feel I have been slightly mis-lead by the author's own description of the book, and want to emphasise that this IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS. I'm sure I will start to get to grips with the book after a good few trips out in the field, but for now it will have to be used as an addition resource once I've managed to get to grips with the different families using an illustrated field guide.