There are two components of incorporating wild plants into your life. First is making a positive identification in the field. Second is harvesting and processing the plant and knowing what to use it for. There are a lot of great books on using wild plants for food and medicine once you make that positive field identification. But for the person without any training in field botany, knowing with 100% certainty that you have the plant you think you do is a challenge.
For years I’ve been looking for a book that would help with field identification in northern Maine and the surrounding Canadian provinces. It would have to have the plants organized by plant family, have clear photos, a big index and a key for identifying unknown species. I finally found this book and it’s called The Plants Of Baxter State Park.
I actually came across the book while in Baxter State Park during the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester. There was a copy of the book in a ranger’s office, and I sat and looked through it for half an hour before deciding I had to have a copy. Once my copy arrived at the field school, I spent several hours poring over it before deciding it would be the plant book I recommend to all of our students.
To be clear, it is a field guide with short written descriptions and several quality photos per species. It is not filled with exhaustive descriptions and line drawings of the key identifiers for individual species. It also does not have information on the uses of plants, other than the occasional one or two word description.
But it is regionally specific with beautiful photos and organized by family. There is even a photographic key to the plant families. The book does a great job of helping to make positive identification in the field. When used with books that are focused on the uses of plants, it makes a valuable addition to the library of the forager, herbalist and student of the natural world.
It is published by the University of Maine Press. From their website:
Maine’s Baxter State Park is one of the most ecologically diverse and beautiful protected sites in the Northeastern United States. The Plants of Baxter State Park presents scientific descriptions of 857 plant species. This extensively researched guide also includes useful keys, illustrated plant-family sections, an informative introduction, a glossary of botanical terms, an extensive index of scientific and common names, and over 2,000 full-color photographs.