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Book Review: Field Manual of the Michigan Flora

posted Feb 22, 2012, 5:58 PM by BCW Native Plant Society   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 5:59 PM ]

Field Manual of the Michigan Flora. 2012. Edward G. Voss and Anton A. Reznicek.  The University of Michigan Press.  990 pages.  $25.00.  ISBN 978-0-472-11811-3.

I have fond memories and owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the late Edward G. Voss (1929-2012), who passed away recently. I laboriously learned the Wisconsin sedges and grasses using his outstanding “Michigan Flora” keys, keying out specimens with a Sherlock Holmes-type magnifying glass in my basement during the winter of 1976 while I worked in the post office. I sometimes wonder whether I would have gotten into professional botany at all without the inspiration of Ed’s “dry,” “impersonal” keys and their challenging and inspiring attention to detail.

I was awestruck when I met Dr. Voss at the Missouri Botanical Garden Symposium in October 1981. That was the same venue in which I first met future mentors Bob and Sally Freckmann and Ed’s collaborator and worthy successor, Tony Reznicek. And later, in 1994, when I visited Ann Arbor, Ed generously gave me free reign of his office to examine his card file, as I researched Isle Royale plants.

The “Field Manual of the Michigan Flora” (hereafter abbreviated “FMMF”) is the long-awaited update of the 3-volume Voss “Michigan Flora” (hereafter abbreviated “MF”), and appeared in print just days after its first author passed away.

It does not disappoint.

FMMF covers all 2719 species of flowering plants now known to occur in Michigan – an increase of 254 species or 10% over the number of species covered in MF. The authors have generously added cultivated species that sporadically escape, such as, for example, the conifers Norway spruce, Austrian and ponderosa pines, bald cypress, Japanese yew, and Douglas-fir, all taxa that were not covered in MF.

The 990 pages of FMMF represents a reduction of about 50% from the over 1,800 pages of the MF volumes; this is achieved by eliminating all line drawing illustrations and color plates; something I do not mind at all given that now we have the entire angiosperm flora of Michigan in one modern, durable, highly portable volume.

County range distributions have been updated, and the nomenclature now follows the 2008 version of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website and is arranged alphabetically by family within Gymnosperms, Monocots, and Dicots. Appendix 1 (Michigan Genera Whose Family Assignments are Changed) will be helpful to those not familiar with the more modern familial circumscriptions. I have no doubt that the biggest task that faced the authors was revising the family keys to reflect the new classification; they are commended for having retained the very useful key to “aquatic plants with all leaves floating or submersed.”

And finally, what a bargain this sturdy, hard-bound book is at $25.00!

Emmet Judziewicz

Associate Professor of Biology
UW-Stevens Point