Book Review: The wildflowers and mushrooms of North America

The wildflowers are in bloom here in Oregon. And while I love coming across them on hikes I’m mostly clueless about what exactly each flower is.

I consult the iNaturalist app (which is excellent by the way) though I find myself feeling a bit guilty afterwards; I’d like to at least make an effort to identify a wildflower before relying on some AI-powered app. But to do that I need a decent guidebook. ideally one in full color with multiple photos of each species.

Which is why I was so happy to see the newest editions of Wildflowers of North America and Mushrooms of North America, both published by the National Audubon Society.

Now, I should warn you that these are not books you tuck into your back pocket on hikes. The wildflowers book alone comes in at just over 900 pages, covering 853 species with more than 5,000 photos — color photos. So what I do is take pictures while out in the wilderness and consult the book from the comfort of home.

Here is a page featuring cat’s ears — a personal favorite.

And a photo of one such flower in the wild:

Mushrooms of North America is equally impressive (and slightly less weighty, at 600 or so pages).

In each book, species are grouped into families within color-coded sections. Wildflower pages feature maps to indicate geographic range, which I found both useful and tempting.

For those who want a deep dive into flowers within a particular region, this book may come up lacking — by casting such a wide geographic range it cannot feature every species, or would weigh quite a bit more than it already does.

The only notable flaw across both books is an index that could be much more comprehensive; I found a number of common names for plants and mushrooms missing.

That said, if you like geeking out over flowers and mushrooms, these books will become your new best friends.

Wildflowers of North America

Mushrooms of North America

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