“Common Plants of Eaton Canyon and the San Gabriel Foothills: A Field Guide on CD”

A Production of “Nature at Hand”

Article by Karen Mateer

(reprinted from Paw Prints, Volume 22, Number 1, January 2004, Eaton Canyon Nature Center Associates)

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I am one of the many loyal docent/naturalists at Eaton Canyon. I lead nature walks and talk about the plants and animals in the Canyon. I have a confession to make. Unlike many of my fellow docents, I am botanically challenged. Oh sure, I can tell the major plants typical of the Canyon area. However, there is that moment on many walks that fills me with trepidation. Someone will raise his or her hand and say: “What is that plant?”

On a good day, it is a plant I recognize, but what if it isn’t white sage or mule fat? Now understand me here, I have just about every plant guide written for the novice naturalist and actually read these things regularly. Plants are pesky little beings. They look different during different seasons. And one other teeny-tiny problem is that they don’t all look like the one picture of the plant in bloom that is generally found in most guidebooks.

I had just about given up ever really learning the various plants in the Canyon, when my prayers were answered. Gabi and Cliff McLean produced this truly wonderful reference tool. I have always admired the very thorough and highly-useful photo album of plants created by Gabi that has been available for reference at the Nature Center. Now imagine my delight at being able to have all those terrific pictures and the supporting plant information at my house, too! Not just one picture, but five or six of each plant, with many taken at different times of the year, I might add. “Common Plants of Eaton Canyon” is much more than a collection of great photographs. This CD contains well-researched and easy-to-access information on every plant listed, a very useful glossary, and a great “quiz” feature that allows you to test your plant identification skills.

Now it is time for my second confession. I always prefer items in print rather than anything I have to view on the computer. That was until I started working with this CD. If all the other computer resources were this user-friendly and fun to use, I would be a total convert.

The versatility is terrific. If I know what plant I want to see, all I have to do is look it up by the common name. So you want to know what plant has red-pink flowers in December? Use the Custom Search feature and get your answer (castor bean). Do you want to know what plants are found in the alluvial plant community? No problem. Just select the community by name and if you click on the “automatic” feature, you have a virtual slideshow. All you need to do is sit back and enjoys the wealth of information available.

This simplicity of the Guide makes it appealing to the novice, and the wealth of information makes it appropriate for the more experienced naturalist, too. This CD guide is a unique, welcome addition to anyone’s natural history library. Cliff and Gabi, thank you for creating such a great tool. You have truly put “Nature at Hand.”

The CD is available for sale at the Nature Center Gift Shop, and proceeds go to support the Nature Center.

Keywords: Gabi McLean, Cliff McLean, Gabriele McLean, Clifford McLean, Nature at Hand, Gabi Horn, Gabriele Horn, Common Plants of Eaton Canyon and the San Gabriel Foothills: Field Guide on CD, Plants of the San Gabriels, California native plants, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Altadena, 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