Colorado Book Report

Colorado Rainbow Gathering and Field Trip

June 28-July 14, 2006

This trip went from June 27 (the day I began driving west) thru July 14 (as I drive home with basically 2 gears on my clutch). The vast majority of plants were at the Rainbow Gathering (North Central Colorado about 15 km north of Steamboat Springs, about 20 km south of Wyoming in Routt National Forest. Our field trip was just about 5-10 km north). I stopped for just a few minutes on my way out to take photos, but I did not use the many field guides to the prairies and plains that I brought along.

Quick List-These are the resources I most frequently consulted.
1.Plant List Routt County Colorado-prepared by Marc Williams
2.Colorado Flora-Western Slope-Weber
3.Plants of the Rocky Mountains-Kershaw, MacKinnon, Pojar
4.Rocky Mountain Plants- Nelson
5.Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers-Falcon guide-Phillips
6.Manual of the Plant of Colorado-Harrington

1.A Field Guide to the Rocky Mountains-Schreier- I did not use this little book very often, and often could not find the plants I was looking at though the photos are nice. A small book that covers a large area, I may give it a go at another time in the Rockies.

2.Alpine Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains- Duft and Moseley- This book was a bit too alpine-y for where we were, but I did occasionally look at the okay color photographs, but it was not too helpful for the trip. I would probably bring it if I was to go to a higher altitude.

3.Canyon Country Wildflowers [Falcon Guide] - Fagan- Handsome as this series is. I used it little as we were out of it geographical region.

4.Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers [Falcon Guide] - Phillips. Another handsome and reasonably well-done Falcon guide. Pretty photos, and of a useable size. It can be difficult to locate plants with their color coding. It seemed a lot of the plants I had in hand were not in this book. I reckon that makes sense as I was not exactly in its turf. I would continue to bring these books for the color photos and sometimes the descriptions are good and they may compare the look-alikes.

5.Colorado Flora-Eastern Slope- W. Weber- I did not use this as we were not on the Eastern slope.

6.Colorado Flora-Western Slope- Weber- Dear Mr. Weber. This was one of the books I most frequently referred to. This guy is a major splitter (watch out Zomlefer) having such families as the Alisinaceae (nee, Caryophyllaceae) and the Melanthiaceae (Veratrum-usually Liliaceae). But he is good at explaining why he splits up families and plants, and often this makes sense (see 4a page 453). He also explains other useful info occasionally in the text. So I used this a lot. It felt like most of the plants I see where listed (assumed), and the occasional useful botanical drawing. It is also of a good size. He puts his book in alphabetical order (like, and before, Jepson), in which the index just points you back that-a-way. Though the index is still important to try to find plants as he may have idiosyncratically changed the genus or family. The keys are fairly well done and they are very useful to compare with other keys of the same area, since it seems Mr. Weber does not just copy keys from other books but seems to draw them from experience. This does not mean that they are necessarily easy, but that they are great to compare with other keys when in doubt.  It’s a keeper and traveler.

7.Colorado Rare Plant Field Guide- a few government agencies issued this loose-leaf binder book- It was left at the Gathering, which I took home did not use.

8.Evergreens of Colorado- Longyear- This is really a booklet. I did not use it much as I did not do much tree identification, though it would have come in handy. Its old school but specific for Colorado. I may try it again if I was there again.

9.Flora of Colorado-Rydberg (1906)-Did not use, though it would have been useful to see if this key was written well. Oh well, maybe next time.

10.Handbook of Rocky Mountain Plants- Nelson & Williams (4th ed)-Ahhh, the Newcomb’s of the Rockies. Well not really, as they use truer keys, but perhaps due to just including those plants which they reckon you’ll see. And often enough, they were correct. It is a useful book and of a good size and weight. The keys sometimes worked (which is all one could ask for) and I would then compare it to a more comprehensive flora such as Harrington and Weber. All in all, a good book to have around. If I was teaching botany in the Rockies, this is probably to book I would have the budding botanists start their keying with.

11.Manual of the Plants of Colorado- H.D.Harrington-And the winner of the worst font and type-setting goes to………..yup, this baby. I guess Mr. Harrington is a stickler for old-school as evidenced from this and his glossary. That said, as least some made a key (besides Weber that is) to Colorado. So with bad type I travel. The keys are generally serviceable and I was able to identify a fair portion of the plants I saw between this and ol’ Weber. Tis a shame that someone does not update this and redo the font and typesetting (all the underlining for instance) and add some botanical line drawings. But it will come with me when I come to the Rockies.

12.Peterson Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers- Craighead-This book neatly fits into my conceit that the Peterson guides are none to useful. The photos are small and not that well done, and I often could not find the plant (even a common one) within its pages. Think I’ll leave it home next time, though I did see a few planty folks using it.

13.Plant List Routt County Colorado- This is a list made into a spreadsheet by Marc Williams ( and given to me at the Gathering. I used this extensively at the Gathering and it was constantly in my side denim jacket pocket and constantly referred to. Thank you Marc!

14.Plants of the Rocky Mountains- Kershaw ,MacKinnon, Pojar-While I did use this book a lot, it was not nearly as helpful as I thought it would be. First, the photos are too dern small, though sometimes they have a photo of a closely related species (also too dern small) to compare with. And it did not have many of the species I saw. Its reasonable inclusiveness was useful and I would still carry it around for its keys, small size covering a lot of plants, and the photos sometimes accompanied with botanical line drawings.

15.Rocky Mountain Flora- W. Weber I did not use this as I used his more specific Colorado Western slope book

16.The Alpine Flora of the Rocky Mountains-volume 1; The Middle Rockies- Scott.-This looks to be a formidable and useful book, one in a series. We were not in the area that is covered so it was not that useful. It could be we were not alpine enough (we were at approximately 9000’).  The maps it contains look excellent, and while the drawings are okay, there are usually some drawings of a characteristic trait that could be useful on a species level. I look forward to being more in its range and using it in the future. I have also not field-tested its keys, which seem extensive. I reckon I would have used it often to back up Weber and Harrington, though it often did not have the plants that were baffling me.

17.Trees and Shrubs of Colorado- Carter- A handsome small book that has an interesting keying method, that is, instead of the keys being in one place, they send you throughout the book. The advantage here is that there are really nicely done botanical illustrations of the plants covered, so you can look at these as you read the key. I only used it a few times, as I did not concern myself much with trees and shrubs. If I did, I imagine this would have been constantly thumbed thru, and I look forward to using it in the future.

18.Vascular Plants of Wyoming- Dorn (2nd ed)- I did not use this book at all, though it probably would have been a good counter-balance to Weber and Harrington as we were just a few miles short of Wyoming.

19.Weeds of the West-many authors-While this big book has many excellent color photographs, it was not that useful to me since I was not looking at what they consider weeds.  Alas, I may not have given this book a fair shake, and it will probably travel with me again in the future (it is a heavy mo’fo)