Flowers on your laptop

A new electronic field guide from Chapter members showcases plants of the San Gabriels

by Ginny Heringer

(reprinted with permission from the Southern Sierran, Vol. 60 No. 6, June, 2004, Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club)

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Until recently, local wildflower enthusiasts have been able to buy plant identification books for the Santa Monica Mountains, the Sierras, and for the deserts, but there has been no guide for the mountains that many of us hike the most often, the San Gabriels. Now there is an optionĖCommon Plants of Eaton Canyon and the San Gabriel Foothills, a field guide on CD by Gabi and Cliff McLean.

A CD field guide is a new approach to identification formats: You canít take it with you into the field (unless you have a laptop), but it has several advantages over the book format. First, there are several stunning photographs of each plant, showing different parts of the plant and at different seasons, and you can zoom in for a close-up. You can click for more information and get a text box describing the plant and comparing it to other similar-looking plants without covering up the photos. And there are links to definitions of botanical terms in the glossary in case you forget what bracts and bristles are. Itís possible to search for a flower by color and blooming time, for example, "blue-purple flowers blooming in May" (thatís a long list!) and you can view the plants in an order that you choose, such as by plant community, flower color, or family.

Best of all, thereís a quiz to test your identification skills—the beginnerís version with all the photographs and the more advanced version with just one photo showing leaves or fall berries, for example.

The CD provides information about 124 plants, including habitat and range, origins of botanical names, related species, and drought and fire adaptations, all in an interactive, easy-to-use format.

Naturalists Gabi and Cliff McLean are Sierra Club members as well as members of the California Native Plant Society and docents at Eaton Canyon Nature Center. Gabi is the photographer (her photographs have appeared in the Southern Sierran) and Cliff is the computer programmer. Both have a great interest in our local native plants and are eager to share their interest with this CD. The CD is available locally at the Angeles Natural Forest visitor centers, the L.A. County nature centers, and at the McLeansí website, Gabi expects soon to be a Sierra Club leader—watch for her flower walks with the Natural Science Section in the near future.

Ginny Heringer is a member of the Natural Science Section and the Pasadena Group.

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