McLean CD Gives You Flower Power at YOur Fingertips

by Michael Gosnell

(reprinted with permission from the Southern Sierran, Vol. 65 No. 5, May, 2009, Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club)

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Bush Poppy Humboldt Lily
At left, a bush poppy. At right a Humboldt Lily. Both photos and more than 1,000 others appear in full color on the CD. Photos by Gabi McLean

As an avid hiker in the San Gabriels, I always had a nagging urge to learn about the plants that I saw and smelled. Finally, a few years back, I decided to learn more about my surroundings in these beloved mountains. Surprisingly, in an area with millions of people, there is no decent handbook of plants for the beginning botanist. Luckily, Gabi and Cliff McLean have filled this gap with an amazing CD, “Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains: Foothills and Canyon” (Nature at Hand-see for where to purchase).

Plop this disc into your computer and you are instantly transported to our San Gabriel foothills. The CD identifies 258 plants with over 1800 photographs to compare with your digital shots. This alone would be commendable, but the McLeans offer much more. You can search for your plant by its common name or its botanical name. You can also find it by the botanical or common name of the plant family/genus. You can even search your plant by the community it lives in, the flower color or the month in which it blooms, all of which make it easy to identify that plant you’ve been wondering about.

Once you’ve found your plant there is an incredible wealth of information at your fingertips. For each species, there are informative sections on stems and leaves, flowers, fruits, habitat, related and/or similar plants. Furthermore, there are excellent sections on growing the plant in your garden, birds and butterflies which use the plant, the background of plant name and a map of the growing range, all very well done. The McLeans have also included a new feature not included in their last disc which allows the user to listen to their pronunciations of all these botanical terms which is great. Needless to say, there is more here than you may ever need.

Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t know any of these botanical terms. Maybe this CD is too much for me?” Not to worry, the McLeans have included a section titled Botany Basics which will help acquaint anyone with the CD and the world of plants. You’ll learn about plant and leaf parts with helpful illustrations. There is also an informative section on the natural history of the San Gabriel Mountains and an important guide to native-plant gardening which assists in the pertinent environmental need to conserve water and garden with mother nature, not against her. This CD is perfect for both the casual learner and the seasoned, amateur botanist.

I only have one minor complaint: include more species for some genera such as prevalent buckwheat, but I’m nitpicking. A couple suggestions: disable your pop-up blocker which could keep some functions such as the maps from working on your computer. And this is the McLean’s 2nd CD and I would definitely stick with the new disc as it covers most of the material on their first one.

I own all of Steven Hartman’s botanical CDs on places such as Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. They, too, are well done, but the McLean’s effort offers more information, better photos and is so much more user friendly.

Keywords: Gabi McLean, Cliff McLean, Gabriele McLean, Clifford McLean, Nature at Hand, Gabi Horn, Gabriele Horn, Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains: Foothills and Canyons, 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