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Jun 15th, 2021 (Article in newsletter, June 2021)

Book review: Field Guide to the Flora of the San Gabriel Mountains

Mickey Long

Overall, a long-awaited and very useful book with keys to all taxa in the mountain range. The keys include opening ones to families, then, within the families, to genus, species and lower taxa where appropriate. The families, genera and species are arranged alphabetically which is now common and helpful. The taxonomy is apparently based on The Jepson Manual (2012), with a couple of stated updates. There are opening discussions and photos of broad plant communities and photos of a few rare plants.  Otherwise there are no photos or illustrations of any plants in the remaining 300 or so pages. This limits the use of the flora for beginning botanists, who may not know where to look for available illustrations.

Dr. Robert Thorne is acknowledged for decades of work on the flora of the San Gabriels project and then turning it over to Mistretta.  I personally recall a visit with Dr. Thorne at the Herbarium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in the mid-1970s and he showed me his card file (pre-computer days) of about 1100 taxa he had documented to that time.  Mistretta’s work includes 1588 taxa.

My personal feelings are that the book would have benefitted from the following additions:

References seem a bit slim for such a large area. While Dick Swinney is given credit for his most extensive collections, his 700+ page, online working list of the flora is not included in the references.

The book is attractively packaged and bound with a slick-surfaced, hard board cover, and at 6.25 x 9.25 inches, it is certainly more portable for field use than The Jepson Manual. Clearly a great deal of work went into compiling a complete listing of all taxa for the mountain range and recording locations from herbarium specimens for each.  The author is to be commended for the years of work this entailed.  The keys will simplify the chore of tracking down an unknown find and the elevational ranges, specific to the San Gabriel’s, will be helpful.  This flora will be very useful to professional botanists, environmental consultants and serious naturalists.

To purchase the book: You can purchase Orlando's book from the California Botanic Garden (CalBG). There are two options:
a) Order from the Online Store (click here) — you will need to pick up the book from CalBG.
b) If you need to book to be mailed, please contact the CalBG librarian to arrange purchase and mailing (click here).

Mickey Long retired as Administrator over 19 L.A. County Natural Areas after 39 years in the system. He obtained a Zoology degree at California State University Los Angeles, taught college environmental biology courses, and is currently leading docent training classes for the Nature Centers. Mickey has publications in ornithology, herpetology and botany, has prepared or reviewed many environmental documents, and continues to perform biological assessments. He served on the L. A. County Regional Planning Department’s Significant Ecological Areas Technical Advisory Committee; was a founding member of the local San Gabriel Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society; Biology Advisor for the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy; and Vice President of the Pasadena Audubon Society, serving on the board twice (as President and Conservation Chair) over a 40 year period.

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