Wildflowers across the Prairies


336 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88833-131-2




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.



To the amateur naturalist, there’s no such thing as too many field guides. Each new addition to the glove compartment library is eagerly compared to old favorites. Each time, there’s the hope that this will be the book to fulfill one’s dreams of the ultimate portable reference work: compact yet complete, detailed yet easy to use, rugged, clear, helpful...a comfort when in the presence of confusing species.

Wildflowers across the Prairies charms with a glossy promise to be everything Canadians west of Winnipeg and east of the Rockies will ever want when on a wildflower walk. With nearly 400 species covered, 654 full-color photographs, lots of line drawings, a plant-family key, a glossary, popular and scientific names, descriptions of flowers, fruit, leaves and habitat, it goes a long way toward fulfilling that promise.

The work deals with many species common throughout Canada (as do dozens of other wildflower books readily available) but is one of the very few to include species such as red samphire and greasewood — plants that symbolize the prairies.

The arrangement of species follows the traditional taxonomical order, with some groupings of similar plants for comparison purposes. Another nice touch is that the text flags rare plants with a do-not-pick warning. The text is clear, concise, precise, helpful — the best I’ve seen to date.

It is in the matter of illustrations that the book fails to deliver on its promise. It earns points for following the new trend in field guides to use photos instead of drawings as the main form of illustration. The problem is that while there is an astounding number of color photos (often two per flower) many of these are murky or marred by clutter. Some photos are so small the subject appears as unrecognizable dots of color against a blur of green. The line sketches are seldom useful; many are faint to the point of near invisibility and others are from such an esoteric angle they further complicate the task of identification.

The inevitable conclusion is that as yet no one field guide provides all the answers. Used side by side with a classic such as Petersen’s, Wildflowers across the Prairies moves us closer to that ideal.


Vance, F.R., J.R. Jowsey, and J.S. McLean, “Wildflowers across the Prairies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37905.