Book of the Month for Feb 2024

High Mountain Flowers of the Patagonian Andes and Plants of Extra-Andean Patagonia by Marcela Ferreyra, Cecilia Ezcurra, and Sonia Clayton.
Joseph Tychonievich

High Mountain Flowers of the Patagonian Andes and Plants of Extra-Andean Patagonia by Marcela Ferreyra, Cecilia Ezcurra, and Sonia Clayton.

La Biblioteca del Naturista, 2020 and 2023

Written by experts on the flora of Patagonia, this two-volume set distills that deep experience and knowledge into a beautiful and practical field guide. Each volume – one focuses on the flora of the mountains, the other on the steppe regions – catalogs over 300 different species, each one getting a full-page description with multiple photos. The species entries are organized by family, and then alphabetically by scientific name.

All the text is in both Spanish and English, which is a very useful and practical feature, but inevitably limits the amount of text that can be used to describe each plant. Each entry starts with a description of the plant using precise, technical, botanical language. If you are not familiar with terms like “oblanceolate-linear”, there is an illustrated glossary of all the terminology used in the back of High Mountain Flowers of the Patagonian Andes.

The plant description is followed by a brief outline of the habitat and distribution for the plant, and then an “observations” section which gives interesting additional facts about the plant, its appearance, or history. Some entries also include a “uses” section and, very usefully, a section on similar-looking species and how to tell them apart. In a slight omission, the text generally does not describe what time of year a plant flowers.

The stand-out feature of these books is, without a doubt, the photos. Almost every species is illustrated with three or four full-color photos showing closeups of the flowers, whole plant, habitat, and often different color forms or other variants. It is hard to overstate the sheer amount of time and effort that had to have gone into producing this many high-quality photos of this many different species in habitat.

These volumes are field guilds – designed to be in the bottom of your bag on a botanizing trip to help you identify the plants you are seeing in the wild. They are well-designed for that purpose, being relatively small, soft-cover printings that won’t take up too much space or weight in a pack. However, if you want to plan a botanizing trip to this region, you’ll need other resources. The lack of information on when plants flower and the fairly general description of habitat and range means you could not use these books to figure out when and where you’d need to go to see these plants in the wild.

But, even if you are not planning a trip to Patagonia any time soon, I have to say these books would be a great addition to your library. The gorgeous photos make for very enjoyable armchair traveling. Just flipping through the pages will have you marveling at the incredible diversity of the flora of this region. Look at them long enough and you might just find yourself booking a ticket to try and go see some of them in person.

[See page 91 of the winter issue of the NARGS Rock Garden Quarterly on how to order copies from the NARGS Book Service at $20 each plus shipping.  Sorry, orders available in the U.S. only.]

Joseph Tychonievich is the Editor of the Rock Garden Quarterly, where this review appeared in the Winter 2024 edition. He lives and gardens in South Bend, IN.