Luke McGuff (holyoutlaw) wrote,
Luke McGuff

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska
Lone Pine Publishers, Vancouver, BC, 2004

This book is the go-to book for plant identification in this area. It’s called simply “Pojar” in the field and it’s not uncommon, when working with forest native plant stewards, to see two people thumbing through their Pojars, with other people looking over their shoulders.

It’s distinguished by its completeness, everything from trees through nearly-microscopic mosses and lichens. All plants that can be, as much as possible, considered native (ie, existed here before the European incursion) to this region (from Eugene, OR in the south to Cook Inlet, AK in the north; the Pacific in the west to the inland mountains to the east). There are a few weeds and naturalized plants, but not many. Every plant has at least one photo (frequently two), a range map, and a line drawing. Every plant is also discussed in five brief sections: General, an overall description of the plant; Leaves, a description of the leafing and branching pattern; Flowers, a description of the flowers; Fruits, a description of the seeds; Ecology, the range and habitat of the plant; and Notes, information of special interest about a plant. Some of the headings for a section might change; for instance, grasses have an Inflorescence section, but not a flower or fruits section.

The Notes section is particularly interesting, as it contains ethnobotanic information detailing how various peoples used the plants, whether for food, building material, clothing, or medicine. The Notes section will also compare a given plant to similar plants in the same family.

However, Pojar can be intimidating and opaque to the beginner. It becomes more useful to me as I learn more about plants, and have a general idea of what something might be but need to pin it down. This is why you might find two people looking through their copies, looking up different possibilities for the plant in hand. Because it remains useful even to plant experts, it’s worth digging into and grappling with to understand. Something that might make it more useful would be tables of plant communities by habitat.

Another problem, especially in the city, is that the definition of “native” plant is pretty strict. This means that I can spend a fair amount of time looking something up in Pojar, only to realize it’s not listed.

Given these minor complaints, this is still the most useful all-around guide for native plants available.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

Tags: andy mackinnon, field guides, jim pojar, lone pine publisher, native plants, review

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