This could easily serve as a coffee table book with its more than 500 wonderful close-up photographs of beautiful spring wildflowers, but it is much more than that. It provides an in-depth look at the spring-blooming wildflowers of the Northeast, from old favorites to lesser-known species, with essays that include the life histories, lore, and cultural uses of many of the species.
The author talks about the philosophy behind the naming of wildflowers and the reasons that the taxonomy of the plants often changes over time. She also discusses the pollination of flowers and the dispersal of seeds, as well as some of the enemies of the plants such as herbivores, plant pathogens, and insect pests.
Some of the more interesting parts of the book, for me, were those that deal with the uses of the plants by Native Americans and with related species from other parts of the world. I'm always fascinated to see that very similar species of plants (and animals, for that matter) with like characteristics that solve problems in like ways evolve in similar environments around the planet.
Many of these plants, of course, have medicinal uses that were very important in the past and, in some cases, are still used in homeopathic practices. Author Carol Gracie gives space to discussing those uses and also references to wildflowers in art, literature, and history. There is quite simply a wealth of information here; everything you ever wanted to know about wildflowers but maybe didn't know how or who to ask.
The organization of the material of the book is to divide the subject flowers into families so that we see, for example, the members of the orchid family, or the barberry family, or the violet family, etc., shown together where they can be easily compared. Moreover, Gracie writes in a very accessible, easy-to-read style that makes her book useful for all levels of readers, even those, like myself, who consider themselves pretty ignorant on the subject. This is a book that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to know more about these wonderful plants.
(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of this review.)