Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain
pub. Reader's Digest
New in Paperback 2001
448 pages, £9.99
ISBN 0 276 42506 5
Clocking in at almost 450 pages, one fact which struck this reviewer upon dipping into the Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain is what excellent value it represents; costing around ten pounds for this updated paperback version of the original publication.
Just the right size to slip into the pocket of your waterproof jacket or similar, this field guide - like all other Guides in RD's Nature Lover's Library Series - presents information in landscape format pages - each page being dedicated to a single plant species.
What this Guide cleverly does is combine good botanical drawings [every page seeming to have exploded views of important botanical differences or identification points], alongside (albeit small) in-situ photographs of the plants. One of the criticisms of another wild flower book reviewed on this website was that the photographic content frequently failed to show flower or leaf structure clearly, and instead pictured flowers too far away to get a 'feel' for their appearance. Yet another volume we reviewed was a wonder of artistic content, but was too large (and impractical) as a field guide.
Brilliantly the RD team have refrained from making the photographic content mimic the botanical illustrations. Add to this a uniform length of text about each flowering plant and what you get is a really useful, low-cost field guide that slips in your pocket.
The text descriptions cover all sorts... Sometimes there's a bit about the derivation of the latin or common name, or something about the plant's connection with folklore, or snippets about medicinal usage or edibility.
Very occasionally there are 'look-alike' pages inserted - pink, pea and daisy look-alikes come to mind; but generally the book's content is unswerving in its presentation of the flowers and facts. Users of the Guide with little botanical knowledge will find the illustrated 'key' for identifying flowers easy to use and a great help. There is also a short end section which covers the history of our wild flowers and the do's and don't of searching for flowers.
Bottom line... Excellent value for money in terms of information for your buck. The one niggling suspicion this reviewer has is the longevity of this paperback 'in the field'. At almost 450 pages it's quite heavy and, like all guides carried in jacket pockets, will get battered and well-thumbed, which makes one think that purchasers ought to protect and/or strengthen the cover. Even so, a thoroughly recommended book for wild flower enthusiasts, hunters or students.