Book of the Month Club: Land of Enchantment Wildflowers

Executive Summary: 3/5  Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland is an informative and beautifully produced book, but impractical for use while hiking. Editing and organization makes it harder to find specific flowers than necessary.

There are affiliate links in this post. As with all reviews on this blog, I purchased the item with my own money, for my own use, without any sponsorship.

 Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. This field guide to New Mexico wildflowers features more than 200 plants, all photographed by the authors, with details of their blossoms, leaves and seedpods.

There are 456 color photographs, plus information about traditional uses; toxins; etymology of both common and scientific names; usage in landscaping and gardening; and interactions with livestock, wildlife and insects. The book is written in a clear and engaging prose style.

This guidebook is beautifully produced, with accurate color reproduction. For a trade paperback, it is fairly compact and lightweight–just shy of 9″ x 5 1/2″ x 1″ and 1 lb, 11.5 oz (780g). Personally, if I’m doing a serious wildflower hike, with sketchbook, drawing tools and camera in tow, on top of my water, weather and dog gear, that nearly 2 pounds of paper weighs too much and takes up too much volume in my daypack to be useful. And if I’m doing a fast and light dayhike, I’m not going to be making any lengthy stops to peruse a guidebook.

Land of Enchantment Wildflowers organizes the flowers by color, rather than botanical family. This seems like a helpful way to categorize different species, especially for a novice wildflower enthusiast, but it’s not as useful as you might think. For one thing, not everyone sees colors the same way. Also, flowers can have slight color variations in certain locations.

Plants that are in the same family have more in common with each other than they do with plants that have the same color flower, but are totally different in their shape, preferred locations, pollinators, etc, etc. It’s the same reason most bird guides are organized by general family–a crow and a raven are very similar in what they eat and how they move, but a blackbird is a songbird, with totally different needs and behaviors. Yet all three birds are black!

Another problem with the book is the way the photographs are selected and arranged. The photos are all of the plants in full bloom. There are no photos of young plants, seed pods, etc. Wildflowers only bloom for a short period each year, so knowing how they look “out of season” is important!

The authors have placed photos of very closely related flowers together under one species entry heading, but the labeling as to which (sub) species is which can be confusing, or missing.

Finally, the photos are all literally postage-stamp size. Not very comfortable viewing for those of us with aging eyes!

We keep a selection of New Mexico books in our guest room for guests to enjoy while visiting us. Land of Enchantment Wildflowers has a definite place on the bookshelf. As a field guide, it’s a little too heavy and the photos are too confusing to take along for most dayhikes. I still prefer to snap photos with my phone camera, then use the databases at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to make a positive ID.

The authors also wrote the guide, Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide to Texas Flowering Plants (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest).

 

 

Bluebird winter days

Pinon pinecone lightly dusted with snow against a deep blue New Mexico sky.

A happy weekend to you from the sun- and snow-kissed Land of Enchantment!

El Niño has come to the desert southwest with generous snowfalls! This periodic warm-water oscillation in the Pacific Ocean provides much needed extra precipatation for the desert climates of the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Santa Fe is currently about 8″ ahead of average snowfall, and the rest of the state is enjoying greater than normal amounts of the fluffy white stuff as well.

The winter got off to a good start with a first snow in the high desert around my house on November 5. After a road-closing blizzard right before New Year’s, we’ve had smaller but meaningful snowfalls throughout the winter.

For all you skiers, Ski New Mexico has a regularly updated snow report for all resorts in the state.

The winter season is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors here in New Mexico. Even though the weather is milder than the northern tier of states, don’t forget common sense and safety precautions when you hit the trails. Dress in layers and be sure to include a waterproof outer layer in case of snow. Carry along plenty of water and snacks in your daypack, and off-piste safety gear. A fleece blanket in your car is a good idea, if you get stuck.

How will you be spending your beautiful weekend?

Happy New Year: Inner growth or outer goals?

Amaryllis flower buds symbolize growth and hope for the new year.

A bulb contains inside itself all the energy it needs to grow into a beautiful flower.

2016 is off to a big bang, at least in my studio! Another painting module has begun, I’m in the research phase for two art history papers, and tomorrow I go to the natural history museum in Albuquerque to examine and draw a pine borer beetle for the Native Tree project.

Busy, busy, busy!

Has the new year started off at great speed for you, too?

At the start of every year, I usually take some time to share my goals or hopes for the year ahead and make suggestions for interesting reading about goals and resolutions (see here for 2015, for 2014, for 2013, and for 2012.)

It seems to me that the most easily achieved goals are external ones. They are easy to accomplish because you can directly measure them, put them on a schedule or deadline. They are concrete. You either lost 10 pounds or you didn’t. You threw out your old paperwork and organized your office, or it’s still messy. You went to the gym 3x a week, or you stayed home and watched tv.

Etc, etc.

But what about internal goals?

This year, I realized that I need to do some deep growth work on my inner self, both physical, mental and spiritual. In December, I was at a doctor’s office for my shoulder and neck injury, and he said, “What you do now for fitness in your fifties is what will set you up for good health in your sixties, seventies and late old age.”

I realized that his statement didn’t just apply to my body, but also my soul.

All those mental mechanisms that each of us has to defend ourselves from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get stronger and more automatic as we age. They get so powerful that finally they don’t work anymore! Instead of helping us cope, they hinder us from thriving!

What do we do then?

  • We have to abandon our old crusty forts of self-defense.
  • We must learn to observe reality without inserting our old interpretive filters.
  • We need to re-connect to others and allow ourselves to be open to the moment instead of responding to the past.
  • We have to grow.

The problem is, that growth is very hard to quantify. It’s impossible to be 10 pounds happier! You can’t do 50 patience crunches every morning before work. 😉

Inner growth is an easy goal to abandon because it’s hard to see progress. But sometimes, you need to change so you can be easier and freer as you move into the next stage of life.

So my mantra for 2016 is, “Heal within.” I want to heal my shoulder, my brain and my heart. I want to be able to be fit and strong inside and out for a happy old age.

What is your vision for this brand new year of 2016?

Warmest wishes for happiness and health to you all in this New Year!

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