Wildflower Keys

A library for botanists…

Wild Flower Keys

A week ago, I had pulled a photographic guide to flora off my bookshelf to share with you. However for those who want to take step into botany proper, and identify with accuracy, not only botanical specimens, but possibly sub-species and variants too, a good wildflower key is required.

Pages from the Francis Rose- Wild Flower Key

Pages from the Francis Rose- Wild Flower Key

In The Flora of the British Isles Clapham, Tutin and Warburg (later Clapham , Tutin and Moore) produced one of the finest keys ever produced, the descriptions are excellent but knowledge of botanical terms is required to work the key otherwise this volume is virtually impenetrable. It is a large volume though and my copy has lost its dust jacket and some point in its life. More suited for field use is The Excursion Flora of the British Isles, again by Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. This has a reduced content but, again, knowledge of terms and descriptions is required. Every couple of years I have to reacquaint myself with them as I use the books too infrequently to consign the essentials to indelible memory.

Also good is ‘Stace’ as it is often simply referred to- The New Flora of the British Isles is a more up to date book than the two previous ones mentioned and Clive Stace covers all natives, all naturalised plants, all crop plants and all recurrent casuals- 2990 species and 197 extra subspecies are covered in full together with mention of a further 559 hybrids and 564 marginal species. No wonder I cannot consign much of this to memory. Mine is the original 1991 edition. Looking at the third edition (2010) it appears to have been considerably updated and now includes a revised taxonomy as result of recent DNA sequencing work. Put my ‘Stace’ and The Flora of the British Isles together though and there is no better combination of wild flower description available.

Then we come to ‘the daddy’- The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose has almost 1400 species covered assisted by over 1050 illustrations. It is still a portable book, if not for hiking with, however I do struggle with the keys. That is completely due to my continual lapse of memory as to biological terms, give me a good couple of weeks though and I am back up to speed with this volume.

Nailing down just a few of those strange, green flowered, Spurges with the Francis Rose Wild Flower Key

Nailing down just a few of those strange, green flowered, Spurges with the Francis Rose Wild Flower Key

I do wish that there were a decent version of one of these books, or a similar, updated version, available as an ebook/Kindle purchase. Such an item, provided I could navigate through it well and easily, would be of immense use in the field.

Books shown in featured image:

The Flora of the British Isles, Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. Cambridge, 1952

The Excursion Flora of the British Isles, Clapham, Tutin and Warburg. Cambridge, 1959

The Wildflower Key, Francis Rose. Warne, 1981. ISBN 0-7232-2418-8

The New Flora of the British Isles, Stace. Cambridge, 1991. ISBN 0-521-42793-2

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