- North American Wildland Plants, Third Edition. A Field Guide by James Stubbendieck et al.
James Stubbendieck, Stephan L. Hatch, Neal M. Bryan, and Cheryl D. Dunn. 2017. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. $35.00 paperback. ISBN: 978-0-80-329965-8. 528 pages.
North American Wildland Plants. A Field Guide by James Stubbendieck, Stephan L. Hatch, Neal M. Bryan, and Cheryl D. Dunn provides a user friendly update to a classic guide covering some of the most notable plants of North America's rangelands. Originally assembled in 1981, the third edition of the guide in its present form contains additional revisions to informative plant illustrations and descriptions. The guide is based on the Master Plant List for the International Range Plant Identification Contest sponsored by the Society for Range Management. In its aim to serve as a reference for students training for the competition, the guide provides an excellent introduction to species of interest across North American range-lands. The guide begins with a series of useful, descriptive drawings illustrating key plant features and terminology followed by a two-page treatment for each of over 200 species billed as important to rangelands throughout North America. Comprehensive botanical descriptions are aided with detailed and well-annotated drawings that are certain to be of use for the novice botanist.
Each species receives a two-page treatment including a full-page, labeled illustration augmented with enlarged illustrations of key plant parts and a full-page description outlining the species inflorescence, vegetative, growth, and habitat characteristics. Nearly half of the species list contains notable North American grasses. The spikelet drawings and annotations are some of the best that I have seen in contemporary field guides. Even as I read through the guide, I made note of the images that I would use in my own Systematic Botany course. Particularly impressive are those of the spikelet structure in species such as Andropogon gerardi (big bluestem), Spartina pectinata (prairie cordgrass), and Bromus inermis (smooth brome), images that I've long sought for helping beginners understand the spikelet structure of these grasses.
The detailed descriptions and drawings are supplemented with descriptions of the use of these plants in grazing applications with additional notation on traditional uses where known. In doing so, the authors make it very clear that this is a guide for students of range management. Species are described as excellent, good, fair, or worthless in grazing production operations with some additional comments on the value to wildlife (for the most part wild game). However, the wildlife and human applications seem more an afterthought to increase readership. While certainly valuable to a grazing land manager, I find these descriptions dated given our contemporary focus on the ecosystem function and services provided by the native species in our grazing lands. It was quite disappointing to see native plants described as worthless and I longed for some discussion of the larger importance of these species within their respective ecosystems, if not in the descriptions in the introductory text. At a minimum, the guide could be improved by more comprehensively addressing these species' respond to fire management, an increasingly key component of grazing land management. I sincerely hope the users of this guide can see beyond these dated descriptions and consider how these species function in their relevant communities. Those looking to revegetate and restore native grasslands throughout North America will need to look elsewhere for more detailed ecological contributions of these species.
The species covered in the guide are the more prominent rangeland species found throughout North America and the guide is meant to introduce users to both native and non-native species. Users interested in their local flora will need to supplement this guide with a more regional guide, as this guide is not locally comprehensive for any particular region. The strength of this guide appears to be with plant species of the western and south western states. While some species presented have fairly narrow geographical ranges within western North America, there are key species in the northern and eastern regions that have been omitted (e.g., Russian Olive, Buckthorn, Tall...