Flora of the Santa Ana River and Environs with References to World Botany by Oscar F. Clarke, Danielle Svehla, Greg Ballmer, and Arlee Montalvo, published by Heyday Books, Berkeley

Book Review by Gabi McLean

(reprinted with permission from the The Paintbrush, May-June 2007, San Gabriel Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society)

Ever wondered what that red stuff on Red-stemmed Filaree is? Or when the backside of the banner of Lotus strigosus turns from yellow to red? Did you ever want to see the seeds of Wand Mullein? Or see the detail of the male and female flowers of the California Pepper Tree, which is really from South America? If you love detail, color, pictures, facts, charts, and botanical discussion, this book is for you! If you just love color and pictures, it still is worth getting! And if you are really into botany, this book is a treasure chest!

Oscar Clarke's extensive knowledge of the Santa Ana River watershed flora comes through loud and clear in the book that features 900 plant species with 3,200 images and illustrations, in a novel presentation of plants, plant relationships, and botanical basics and trivia. Diagrams and charts present a wealth of information in a concise way and in a condensed space, to the point of being hard to read with my old eyes. A section on botany basics, the botanical glossary, and eight appendices complement the presentation of plant species and make for reading for hours on end.

The presentation of plants by evolutionary relationships and pylogenetic order is an interesting approadh that, right from the start, serves as a learning tool. If you could care less about how plants evolve, you'll still have fun leafing through the picture book, studying the pictures and how they compare in size with a penny, reading the tidbits on plant uses or how the plant compares with others in the area, and where they are found.

In short: this book gets definitely two thumbs up from me! On a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give it a 10- (the minus is for the small print and gray font on gray background in the charts). You'll find it on Amazon.com and in bookstores. The list price is $29.95. Oscar himself will sell it at the Nature Knowledge Workshop in June where he will share his knowledge and enthusiasm about the natural world with all lucky participants, whether they are novices to botany or well versed in natural science.

Keywords: Gabi McLean, Cliff McLean, Gabriele McLean, Clifford McLean, Nature at Hand, Gabi Horn, Gabriele Horn, Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains: Foothills and Canyon, Interpretive Guide on CD, Plants of the San Gabriel Foothills and Canyons, California native plants, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Covina, natural, nature photography, photograph, environmental education, naturalist, docent, hike, hiking, CD-ROM, California native garden, gardening, flowers, wildflowers, San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles National Forest, California Native Plant Society, CNPS, Eaton Canyon Nature Center Associates, ECNCA, Arroyo Seco, invasive weeds, invasive plants

After the Paul Little picnic area, we needed to hurry to get to our cars before dark, so we stopped collecting data. We already knew more than we wanted to know about the invasive plants there.

This is the infestation of the Arroyo that has prompted us to undertake a major project to control the invaders. We will use the GPS data to plot detailed location data. As we get the project underway, we will need the efforts of a lot of people who care about the San Gabriel Mountains and their beautiful canyons.

In spite of the weeds, the hike was not without its pleasures. We were happy to find that the rare Greata’s Aster (Aster greatae) is growing in more locations than we knew about. In the section of chaparral that the trail took us through, we discovered a few Bush Poppies (Dendromecon rigida), as well as the first California Barberry (Mahonia pinnata) that Gabi and I have seen in the San Gabriel Mountains.