Today I’m combining a book review AND a giveaway because I am very excited to share Tom Elpel’s new edition of Botany in a Day with you!
I first became acquainted with Botany in a Day with the previous 5th edition which was in black and white. (Current owners of the previous edition can take advantage of Tom’s upgrade offer to get a discount on the new color edition). I was hooked on how easy it could be to become familiar with plant families after reading through it! Though the book covers dozens of plant families, Tom recommends starting with the 8 most common ones: Mint, Parsley, Pea, Mustard, Aster, Grass, Lily and Rose, which will allow the reader to be able to recognize over 45,000 species by family around the world. Pretty impressive for one day’s worth of studying!
Botany in a Day is used as a text book in high schools, universities and herb schools and after opening it up, it’s easy to see why. The book begins with a great history of the evolution and naming of plants and how they came to be classified with lots of fascinating information that I’d never known before. This section of the book also covers the three domains and six kingdoms of the world (one of which being the plant kingdom), the difference between monocots, dicot and eudicots, the evolution of flowering plants which give us our variety of simple to specialized flowers and the progressive fusion of the pistils which I found to be very interesting.
The first section of the book ends with the plant keys and how to use them. There’s a helpful worksheet right before the keys to help profile the flower one is examining before using them that is very helpful for becoming familiar with practicing how to ‘read’ a flower.
The second section of this book is where practicality meets pure beauty. In the new color edition, Tom added over 600 color illustrations from historical botanical prints to make the book a botanical feast for the eyes! Don’t let it fool you though, section 2 is not merely eye candy, it is a wealth of information about plant families, including subfamilies within the plant families. After keying out a flower at the end of section 1, one is guided to the page with the appropriate family’s information.
Each plant family page starts with several color and/or black and white illustrations. Both the common and botanical family names are listed along with details about that particular family. Descriptions and characteristics of the plants, common places they are found, how many genera and species exist in the family and any subfamilies that fall in that family are listed. He also refers to common medicinal and/or edible uses of the family such as this description from the Rose family (Rosaceae):
“ The Rose family produces many edible fruits. Tannins are common in the vegetation, giving astringent properties.”
By knowing this, when one is learning to identify families out in the wild, it is easy to know that any plant identified as belonging to the Rose family will have astringent qualities which could be helpful for pulling together a wound on skin in a pinch.
After the initial description, key words are given to remind you of the key traits for that family. The final portion of the family page includes a list of more commonly found genera in the family. While it’s by no means a conclusive list, it does provide a great variety to get the beginning and intermediate botanist off to a good start in learning about plant families. Each genus provides specific information including common names, edible, medicinal and practical uses of each.
In the 6th edition, Tom has spent over 1000 hours updating not only the beautiful photos but also the complex classification system. While he wanted it to be updated to match the APG III classification, he also wanted it be useful with older botanical books. That doesn’t mean a lot to people new to botany and classification but for those who have studied it for many years, it means a lot less headache when trying to search through old classification books.
Though my newest edition of Botany in a Day is brand new, I know it will not look like it for long as I will continue to read and re-read the pages, each time learning more and more about the plant families. This book has already begun to deepen my level of herbal knowledge and for that I am grateful. This is a book that belongs on every herbalist’s bookshelf, no matter how old or young they are!
And now, on to this week’s giveaway….
Tom is also the author of Shanleya’s Quest. I simply adore this book for teaching kids (and adults) about 8 of the most common plant families: Mint, Parsley, Mustard, Pea, Lily, Grass, Rose and Aster. It is a great starting point for those wanting to learn about botany. He even offers a separate card deck that brings play into learning the families with several games to incorporate and reinforce learning fun. Tom has created a video to demonstrate the card game:
Today I’m giving away a copy of Shanleya’s Quest and a copy of Jesse Hardin’s “I’m A Medicine Woman Too!” Both are a great addition to any budding herbalist’s book collection.
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Sign ups end on Sunday, August 11, 2013 and I’ll draw the winner on Monday, August 12, 2013 morning. Thanks for entering and good luck!