While we love a good medicinal herb book, lately i have been getting into all kinds of plants. Its always been a goal of mine to be able to identify every plant I encounter. Well not EVERY plant, but we will start with southern CA. For the longest time I thought all we had to offer down here was either the beach or the desert. I never thought much of the chaparral landscape and plants i.e. lots of shrubs and boring trees. But what was really reflected in these thoughts of ugly trees was a longing for a more green rainy landscape that I had been dreaming of since childhood. Big redwood trees, rivers, rain…. and there is none of that here…only northern ca. It took me awhile to appreciate everything around me. When you really open your eyes and see the abundance of medicinal and edible plants you begin to realize what a beautiful and interesting landscape this truly is. Being in tune with the changing of the seasons and when plants flower, bloom, and lay dormant really helps you appreciate the beauty of every single plant around you.
I have been delving into tons of books lately, some recommendations, some complete random choices and some I researched. One of my other goals is to make this kind of information as accessible as possible. I hate the feeling of elitism, or wanting to keep things a secret. Knowledge is meant to be passed down and its nice to be able to find a list of books, or any sort of information on plants in one single list. Whatever little information I have I want to be able to share with anyone and everyone who is interested! And while a lot of these books are California specific, a few of them can be found for other states.
These first four books are probably the most straight forward plant ID books compared to the rest of the list.
Introduction to California Plant life is the more general overview of plants in California. Its probably the most dry, ‘scientific’ book out of the bunch. Not to say its not good but it covers topics like climate, vegetation in different parts of Ca, evolution of plant life in ca, topography and geology.
The Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs is a strictly medicinal plant only id guide. It covers eastern and central north america so this isn't ca specific! It gives good information on where to find the plants and a brief summery of what it can be used for. Definitely doesn't go in depth on the medicinal benefits its more of an id book but it does give you some advice.
Roadside Plants of Southern California is a definite brief overview of plants. I would keep this in my bag or the glove compartment in the car for whenever you need to ID a plant. It gives a general description of where the plant can be found no specific locations but the pictures are pretty good. A bit of an older book from the 80s but still a staple and easy to carry since its thin.
Wildflowers of California is great! It organizes everything by month of when its flowering. It also gives specific areas where the plants grow and if they tend to flower in different months than other areas it specifies. It is also organized by color which is a plus! Pretty comprehensive.
The New Age Herbalist This was a recommendation from my lovely friend Leyna from Urb Apothecary. At first glance this book looks kind of topical like those books you read as a kid, you know the big glossy white thin hardback on subjects like space or whales? But once you delve into this book its so much more than that and is packed with information. The pictures are the best out of any of these books. This is not just a plant id book but covers all the general herbal qualities, what do use them for etc. A great book to have in your collection
Planting for the Future: Saving our Medicinal Plants This is a must have book in your collection if you are an herbalist or at all interested in plants. Its a book on plant conservation written by Rosemary Gladstar the godmother of herbs as well as other prominent herbalists in the United Plant Savers organization. It covers 30 important medicinal herbs, how you can propagate them, why its important to save these plants and how to use them. It is a definite staple book if you care about the planet and the future of our plants!
California Foraging Another California specific book, that covers from north to south. If you are interested in a book covering edible plants only this is a good one! It is a little more general, only a couple of pages per plant, but has a lot of good information. It covers all the basic edibles like currents, sorrel, wild roses, wild berries and juniper but has tons of others I didn't even know you can eat.
Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking, and Healing with Native Plants of California This book is separated in 4 sections covering plants you can use for gardening, medicine, food and art. 100% of the proceeds go directly to the California Native Plant Society, so not only are you learning but providing for the conservation and research of our native plants! There is an entire section with recipes, many of which are really good! There also some resources in the back with nurseries selling native plants.
Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt to Plate If California Foraging was a more general book on edible plants, this book goes much more in depth. There are several pages for each plant including lots of recipes for each plant! The photos are also a lot more extensive and teach you how to really get to know each plant including its seeds! Dr John Kallas, the author has been studying wild edible plants since 1970. He has degrees in biology, zoology, botany, and is super knowledgable on plants. If Rosemary Gladstar is the godmother of medicinal herbs, he is the godfather of edible plants. He has a few other great books you should also check out!
The Organic Medicinal Herb FarmerThis is the only book of its kind. If you are considering or already in the process of starting your own medicinal herb farm, you need this book! It covers topics you might not have even thought of, how to lay out your land, how to buy land, how to do your books, what kind of buildings you need for your farm etc. Some times things sound fun but theres a lot of business aspects that you need to think about as well. You can learn from someone who has run a farm for over 10 years and what kinds of things change through out the years, what mistakes they made, and what they learned a long the way. Its like having a friend guide you through all the steps. This has been helping us a lot!