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California’s Wild Gardens: A Guide to Favorite Botanical Sites

California’s Wild Gardens: A Guide to Favorite Botanical Sites
Phyllis M. Faber
University of California Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 231 p., $34.95

For anyone interested in the natural world, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful book than this one. Nor one that takes you on a more fascinating and informative journey through the state of California’s wild gardens. Certainly no state is more diversified in its share of natural wonders, as this book makes abundantly clear — mountains, forest, seacoast, deserts, grasslands — California has them all. If you do nothing more than look at the photographs (and you’ll never see more beautiful wildflower photography!) you’ll love this book.

But there’s a lot more to this book than beautiful photos. More than 100 botanists contributed to its production, along with a number of California environmentalists, and you can tell from the result that it was a labor of love. The introduction alone is impressive, beautifully written, a wonderful guide to California’s flora and the environment that supports it — the soil, climate, the role of fire, as well as potential problems, such as habitat loss and invasive plants. There is a section that describes California’s various geographic areas, such as beach and dunes, wetlands, coastal forest, lower montane forest, etc. And finally, the book asks the question that is inevitably asked these days, what can be done to save California’s native plants for future generations?

But by far the lion’s share of the book is saved for what amounts to a guided tour of California’s wild areas, where the photographer has captured wildflowers blooming in all their glorious natural beauty. Yes, the photos are lovely, but the book is a good read, too, and as you go from site to site, it’s like taking a trip across the state. In fact, you may get so enthused, you may want to get out a map, and plan a trip based on this exciting book!

— Jim Kemper, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden