Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains (Spiral Bound)
Ann Croissant, PhD & Gerald Croissant, PhD
Stephens Press (2007)
Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad for Reader Views (7/08)
What a lovely book to take on a hike or on a Sunday drive! The San Gabriel Mountains lie within the Los Angeles county area and are easily accessible by residents and visitors alike. For the curious, all you have to do is flip through the pages and you will immediately want to get outside as soon as possible. The pictures are amazing thanks to Shirley DeBraal, the photographer. But this is not just a picture book!
The co-authors, a husband and wife team with years of experience as scientists and writers, share information we wish we knew about flowers that we encounter including their features, how they are used and what is unique about them. And more than one picture accompanies each description so that you know for sure they are highlighting the flower you are looking at. Of course if you already know a flowers name you can use the handy foldout index to find it in the book, which is organized by color. What a clever way to help us find an unknown quickly with over 80 listings! But if you now the scientific names you can look them up that way too.
I enjoyed learning a little about the range and the history of it. The authors’ description made me want to plan a visit soon. “…a hundred steps on a walk in the San Gabriels is a hundred images, a hundred discoveries.” They introduced the concepts of biodiversity and plant communities and made me think of the issue of adding non-native species to any area.
As a teacher, I liked that they included the idea of thinking about the messages or clues flowers give. You may wonder how they live in such a dry area. Looking at their leaves may help with your answer, but as the authors mention, it may also shorten your walks as you take time to ponder! They go on to inspire readers to take time to think about what they are seeing, not just race through a hike.
Did you know that the Indian Pink is actually red and shows up after fires? At least there’s something to look forward to after a disaster. Probably the funniest name is Burro Fat, based on the odor. The pretty yellow color would invite me to check out the scent, but it sounds like I would be disappointed. I was disenchanted that Hooker’s Evening Primrose was named after a botanist. I was expecting a juicy story.
I certainly felt their love of nature and the responsibility they felt for readers to learn as much as possible about the area and plants within it. Not only do they want you to read their book, they want you to pursue other resources to learn and enjoy more of what the area offers. They highlight the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy and encourage hikers to be responsible when outdoors. The Croissants include a list of native plant gardens that can be visited in as well.
“To accept only a few discoveries on a walk is to loose the imagination of the moment and the magic of the place. Slow down and sense the wonder.” I would say the same for “Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains.” Don’t flip through the pages too quickly. Instead take your time to enjoy the beauty and learn a little bit about what Mother Nature has given us.