The Natural History of British Flora
OK, so I may not know the name, but I can have a good grasp on the why-
Beyond a simple Field Guide, important that they are, an understanding of why plants are where they are, why they aren’t there, why they are the dominant plant, why they flourish or wither, why prostrate or stunted, any of these queries and more. That is truly asking the right questions. That is where a decent book on the natural history of plants can make time in the outdoors all the more enjoyable.
One simple and very accessible introduction to plant communities and their habitat is the Penguin Nature Guide- Plant Communities. The basics of soil and weather conditions and how these two are intimately linked with the plants to be found in any habitat, are explained in a series of short chapters. The whole book can be read in an hour or two and no walk would be the same afterward as a result. As an example of how authoritative this book is, it was edited and adapted by Francis Rose.
Peter Marren has served on the Nature Conservancy Council in various capacities and joined Plantlife’s advisory council in 1997. He has authored many scientific papers and books and made a personal study of rare plants and their world. His book Britain’s Rare Flowers was the first to provide both an accessible account of their conservation and an explanation as to why they are actually rare.
So, to finish off with a heavyweight from my bookshelves. Tipping my scales at 2348g, this is a both heavy in weight and in content. I have a number of books by Richard Mabey- Food for Free (1972), The Roadside Wildlife Book (1974), Street Flowers (1976) and Plants with a Purpose (1977) have all made my walks in the countryside more informed and have frequently provided interest out of the barest patch of vegetation. But with Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey has produced a quite amazing piece of work, to give over to an extract from the dust cover blurb, with which I cannot argue:
“It covers the native and naturalised plants of England, Scotland and Wales, and, while full of fascinating history, is topical and modern. Indeed, Flora Britannica is the definitive contemporary flora, an encyclopaedia of living folklore, a register- a sort of Domesday Book- for the end of the twentieth century”
Books from my shelves:
Plant Communities, a Pengin Nature Guide, Anne Bülow-Olsen, Illustrated: by Susanne Larsen. Penguin Books Ltd. 1978. ISBN 0 14 063004 X
Britain’s Rare Flowers, Peter Marren. T & A D Poyser, 1999. ISBN 0 85661 114 X
Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey. Sinclair Stevenson, 1996. ISBN 1 85619 377 2