Though it’s true that many wildflowers bloom during the spring, there are also species that produce flowers during the summer and fall. When you need a much-needed break from the garden, check out public wildflower gardens in your area. This is an excellent way to learn what the plants look like in a garden setting. By doing so, you’ll find out what particular species you like.
Another way to learn more about native plants and wildflowers is through guide books. Generally, it is better if you can use one written specifically for your region. Here are several regional guides that I recommend.
“A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina” by Richard Dwight Porcher et al was published by the University of South Carolina Press. With exquisite photos by Porcher, this comprehensive guide has become a classic. It is much more than just a field guide to wildflowers. It contains in-depth descriptions for all the different kinds of plant communities within the four regions of the state along with details on their geology and topography.
Within each region, the authors also provide a county-by-county account of each public park, forest, preserve, and wildlife refuge where the plants can be found. This enables visitors and residents alike to plan their trips and learn beforehand what they can expect to see.
For each natural plant community, the authors present profiles of the individual plant species with a color photo, a complete description with details on its habitat and range, similar species, and uses. It is easy to find the plants for any given region as the outer edges of the pages are color-coded.
In addition, this title contains in-depth chapters on the natural history of the plants and a chronological history of botany in the state from colonial times. The appendix has many useful lists and plant keys.
“Plant Life of Kentucky-an Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora” by Ronald L. Jones was released by the University Press of Kentucky. This definitive, groundbreaking guide is beyond compare, and sets the standard by which other state floras should be judged.
The usefulness of this book is by no means limited to Kentucky since the same species are often found in nearby states in the region.
In addition to being a survey of the flora, this reveals everything that is known about botany in the state. The author presents an in-depth view of the climate, regions within the state, and the individual plant communities in those areas as well as detailed geologic history through the ages with notes on the origins of the flora throughout the earth’s history.
In addition, Jones addresses the issue of plant conservation and the effect human activities have on the plants’ habitats. A section is also devoted to the history and study of botany in the state. Much of the book consists of the keys.
The individual plants are illustrated with line drawings. For each species, there is the family name, plant description, common name/names, the bloom time, habitat and range, related species, and its status, such as endangered. Under each plant family listing, there are additional notes of interest.
There are helpful tables, charts, and maps along with a glossary of terms.