Lewis Clark's Field Guide to Wild Flowers of Field and Slope in the Pacific Northwest


108 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-88894-336-9





Edited by John Trelawny
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



The late Dr. Lewis Clark was a recognized authority on west coast flowering plants, and his Wild Flowers of British Columbia is a classic reference book. Before his death Clark completed the work for two field guides and outlined four others. The set has now been completed by John Trelawny, a biologist with the University of Victoria.

A major decision for the author of a field guide is how to group the material. For wild flower guides, the traditional approach was to divide the plants by family. Then geographic groupings became popular, and a few innovative authors did the logical thing and grouped the flowers by color. The objective was always to simplify the identification process and make the guides convenient to use. The Lewis Clark series achieves these goals admirably by a new approach: they are the first guides I’m aware of to use habitat as the criterion for grouping species. This makes sense. For example, if you’re in a meadow, you don’t want the frustration of comparing the flower you’ve found to pictures of plants that live only in deserts or forests. Using habitat as the grounds for inclusion also means each guide is confined to a manageable size: less bulk for your pocket and fewer pages to search when making an identification.

The series consists of separate guides for 1) field and slope, 2) arid flatlands, 3) forest and woodland, 4) marsh and waterway, 5) mountains and, 6) sea coast. You need carry only the one or two applicable to your field trip.

The flowers included are those occurring from southern Alaska, through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, to northern California, from the Pacific coast to the western timberline of the Rockies.

In photographic quality, the books are significantly superior to other field guides. Each flower is illustrated with a color photo that is large, bright, clear, and informative. The photos are of such high quality that for most plants correct identification is virtually assured. Until very recently all field guides were illustrated with drawings rather than photos. To date, those using photos have been characterized by small and/or poor quality photos, creating some question of the suitability of photography in field guides. The Lewis Clark guides answer the question in the positive: these slim paperbacks have the visual impact of high-priced coffeetable books.

For each plant species, a small text block gives appearance, size, range, common and scientific names, characteristics, and identification pointers. The degree of magnification or reduction is given for each photo, and each guide has a ruler printed on the inside cover to facilitate measuring plants in the field. Each is indexed and has a basic glossary.

Another attractive feature that is a rarity in field guides is an occasional editorial comment (e.g., “weedy but cheery”) enlivening the text.

In all respects these guides are outstanding. Unquestionably any armchair or field naturalist — regardless of level of knowledge — will enjoy them.


Clark, Lewis J., “Lewis Clark's Field Guide to Wild Flowers of Field and Slope in the Pacific Northwest,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37891.