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U.S. Forest Service

Books Our Botanists Use

Botany books covers.

Our Forest Service botanists are frequently asked, “What flower is that?” or “What field guide do you recommend for the wildflowers in my area?” Here, we present a variety of floras and wildflower books by geographical area that our botanists and non-botanists frequently use. Some are technical, such as the major regional or state Floras directed at the advanced or professional student; and, some are colorful picture-rich field guides aimed at the general wildflower viewer.

One of the best-kept secrets of successful plant identification is having a good guide to the plants of your local area. The main reason behind this is that most species are local. For example, if you are interested in the wildflowers of Northern California, using the Jepson Manual that covers the entire state of California will result in many misidentifications. There may be over 50 species of Mariposa lilies in California, but only 4 species that occur on Ring Mountain in Marin County. The odds of your making a correct identification using a local guide will be extremely high.

We have compiled a list of books and references we hope you will find useful and generate enthusiasm for the wonderful wildflowers found in your National Forests. Many of these books can be found in your local library, purchased at your friendly bookstore or online. In addition, many excellent local guides may be found on the Native Plant Society websites for your state.

We do not sell these books nor do we endorse any particular title, author, or publisher. We have provided these lists to simply let you know what references we use in our day-to-day activities and offer some suggestions for references that may enhance your enjoyment of the plants and flowers of the national forests and grasslands.