A guide for nature lovers


FINDING WILDFLOWERS IN THE WASHINGTON-BALTIMORE AREA. By Cristol Fleming, Marion Blois Lobstein and Barbara Tufty. Johns Hopkins University Press. 312 pages. Illustrated. $15.95.

WITH THE booming popularity of walking and hiking along the many trails in the Baltimore-Washington area, what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare at the wildflowers around us. A big help is "Finding Wildflowers," a guide to what is to be seen throughout the year -- seen, but not picked.

The book covers an area somewhat over 100 miles. It stretches from the Western shore of the Chesapeake Bay -- Calvert County is noted for the rare Red Turtleneck (Chelone obliqua) -- to the Appalachian Mountains, with plants native to New England and Canada. On the west it takes in parts of Virginia and West Virginia, while to the east it includes the serpentine barrens around Nottingham, Pa., north of Cecil County.

The authors point out that the guide is not meant to identify wildflowers -- there seem to be a sufficient number of such guides -- but to tell where the plants may be found.

Geology and climate determine the biology of a region. The relatively small area covered comprises six regions. They are the flat Coastal Plain; the rolling, fertile Piedmont, the Blue Ridge; the Great Valley which slashes down from Pennsylvania's Allegheny Plateau. Each has its unique flora, though obviously there is some plant mixing in the borders between regions. Thus there is quite a repetition of named plants throughout the book.

This is no problem, as both Latin and common names are given. As a result, you get used to matching the formal titles with the informal names. When you see Mertensia virginica, you soon remember it's the pretty Virginia bluebell.

Within the six regions, the book describes 122 places, with explicit directions to get to them. The location of rare plants is not divulged. The book is also seasonal in that it identifies what may be seen from early Spring to late Fall.

Though handy to have when planning a walk, the guide has one drawback. The authors know their botany better than their geography. They put Lancaster County, Pa., not York County, directly north of Harford County. Lancaster County is east of the Susquehanna. And, too, Baltimore City is not surrounded on all sides by Baltimore County. Abutting it to the south is Anne Arundel County.


Geoffrey Fielding writes from Baltimore.

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