Monday, October 7, 2013
Nothing gives me more pleasure than getting a new fern guidebook in the mail, particularly when they are well designed and useful. Above is a photo of my fern bookshelf - much larger now that I'm a professor! These books are a great resource for learning about the floras of places I can't get to easily. However, I recently acquired fern books about places I can get to - Florida, where I am, and Alabama, a few hours' drive away. As I work on learning the fern flora of the southeast, these will both prove helpful.
Both are great books. The Florida guide starts with an introduction to ferns generally, with drawings of leaf forms and other helpful features. The bulk of the book is keys, followed by descriptions of the families, then genera and species, that are keyed out. Drawings of some taxa or features are included sporadically, and there's a set of plates in the center of the book with color photos of nearly every species listed. There are 160+ species of ferns and lycophytes in Florida, and they all fit nicely in this slim volume.
The Alabama book is twice as thick as the Florida one, and is very sleek and attractive. It begins with introductory information about ferns, and the geology and geography of Alabama, followed by a key to the fern genera and then species. Descriptions of all the species are next, and each includes one or more photos, a drawing, and a map of the state colored by county to show where each species occurs. These maps are really useful, and are a great feature of this book.
There is a fair amount of overlap in the species in these two states, at least between northern Florida and most of Alabama, and in the field I would probably take along the Alabama guide. Unless I were roaming in south Florida, where a tropical element creeps in that is better covered by the guide for this state.