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Plant Families: A Guide for Gardeners and Botanists

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Most of us lump plants together in one big family, and when pressed can only explain their grouping by what they’re not—not an animal, not a mineral, and so just a plant. In reality, there are hundreds of different plant families, each grouped logically by a unique family history and genealogy. This brings sense and order to the more than a quarter of a million different plant species covering a diverse spectrum that includes soaring sequoias ( Cupressaceae ), squat prickly pear ( Cactaceae ), and luxuriant roses ( Rosaceae ).

Plant Families is an easy-to-use, beautifully illustrated guide to the more than one hundred core plant families every horticulturist, gardener, or budding botanist needs to know. It introduces the basics of plant genealogy and teaches readers how to identify and understand the different structures of flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs, and bulbs. It then walks through each family, explaining its origins and range, and describing characteristics such as size, flowers, and seeds. Each family is accompanied by full-color botanical illustrations and diagrams. “Uses For” boxes planted throughout the book provide practical gardening tips related to each family.

We have much to gain by learning about the relationships between plant families. By understanding how botanists create these groupings, we can become more apt at spotting the unique characteristics of a plant and identify them faster and more accurately. Understanding plant families also helps us to make sense of—and better appreciate—the enormous biological diversity of the plant kingdom.

224 pages, Hardcover

Published October 7, 2017

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Ross Bayton

10 books1 follower

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5 stars
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25 (28%)
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Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for fióka.
439 reviews25 followers
February 18, 2021
This is a beautifully illustrated little book for all those who wish to understand how plant families work but do not want to immerse themselves into the depths of botany.
It goes through the parts of flowering plants (angiosperms), explains plant families, the way angiosperms evolved, what are monocots and eudicots, how to identify a plant and even has a useful dichotomous key included. It also talks about the uses of different plants from different families, there are some good gardening ideas included.
The book discusses almost all major plant families but all the information in here is based on the APG II and APG III (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group) systems, meaning that some of the information is outdated. The aforementioned groups are superseded by the APG IV system, published in 2016. This means that the book could have been more thorough and more accurate since it was published in 2017. Never mind, it's still useful for the hobby gardener.
Profile Image for Kaylee.
310 reviews34 followers
July 29, 2018
I came upon this book by chance. I was just leaving the library when I noticed Plant Families on display, and it jumped out at me. (I mean visually - it didn't leap off the shelf.) I looked at a couple pages, and it was so captivating, I had to go back to the counter and check it out.

The cover is beautiful, the inside cover likewise. The pages are beautifully illustrated and perfectly arranged. The paper itself is of superior quality and so lovely to touch, and a vivid red silky ribbon bookmark completes it. The entire thing is a work of art. If you ever have an opportunity to browse through this book in person, I highly recommend it, for its artistic merits alone.

I have an interest in plants, but I'm not a gardener or a botanist. Being merely a curious person who appreciates plants, the information in this book has little practical use for me personally, but I did learn a lot from it! (I had only meant to look at it, not read the whole thing, but it was so interesting that I read the whole thing after all!)

I have seen some reviews point out that this book is more geared towards Europe, and is a bit lacking with respect to North American species. I am not knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of this claim, and I would assume that gardeners know what they're talking about, but I found that the book talked about plants across ALL continents, with North America getting as much attention as the rest. It may be that people are objecting to the fact that this book talks mainly about plant families, and only lists individual species as examples of what belongs in a plant family - but the examples seem to be about an equal mix from all continents (I've looked up a lot of them, and they are from all over).

Anyway, the purpose of this book is not to be a comprehensive encyclopedia of each individual species of plant. What it was meant to do - and does very well, in my opinion - is to clearly delineate plant families, and provide easy-to-understand explanations (with very helpful illustrations) of how to recognize plants as members of various families. It also talks a little bit about the needs of various types of plants, and what is suitable to grow in what kind of environment, but again, it doesn't go into great detail, since that's outside the scope of the book.

Plant Families is perhaps not the most comprehensive book on botany, but I think it is a great introduction to the plant kingdom, and useful as a starting point for finding out what type of plants you are interested in, which could be very helpful in narrowing down what additional books would be useful towards that particular interest. Or you could simply appreciate the book as a work of art.
73 reviews
November 19, 2017
I received this book through a giveaway from Goodreads.

First let me say that when I opened the envelope I caught my breath ... the book itself it beautiful! The cover has a fabulous texture and the colors and pictures are very special - like a piece of artwork. The inside covers are beautifully lined up at the corners and the lining is placed with care with it's rich color and patterns. Each page is a joy to turn and to feel the texture of. The page marker is a beautiful ribbon whose color goes so beautifully with each page of the book.

The book itself has so much wonderful information about the different plant families. It's a great reference that will hold a special place along with our other gardening books.

This is more then just a reference book ... with the care that was given to all aspects of it's creation ... it is truly a work of art.
Profile Image for Claire.
83 reviews
December 12, 2020
A Wonderful plant book. Reading through it brought me back to good memories of being a student for 3 years at the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh where the course had a strong emphases in plant taxonomy . Beautiful and clear diagram illustrations. One of the top botany book have read and seen that clearly delineate plant families, and provides easy-to-understand explanations of how to recognize plants as members of various families. A good book to give to the plant enthusiast or avid gardener.

The plant taxonomy terminology and Latin may take little extra time to grasp the information for a beginner gardener. But would not deter a budding plant lover from not reading it, as understanding how plants are related to each other and growing origins helps us to understand the plant's best growing needs.
Profile Image for Hannah.
110 reviews1 follower
September 24, 2022
This book is absolutely beautiful! The information is written for the average or even beginner-gardener...but I still found it really hard to follow. I mean, its trying to teach taxonomy, plant structures and how to look at a plant and break it down to figure out what family it belongs to. But its like learning Latin- if you can figure out the formula, it makes sense. But for me, I found it incredibly hard to follow, you basically have to memorize everything, and even then it may be inaccurate when it comes to appearance vs. DNA. So while I enjoyed this book (and actually bought a copy for a friend) it didn't really help me understand botany. Sigh.
Profile Image for Sean.
320 reviews41 followers
August 17, 2019
Very well done book. Heavy on the Latin names, but that is the true proper family categorization of all these plants. Excellent detail and research classifying these plants by their TRUE shared characteristics. A bit too technical for me. I recommend this for true plant/garden/tree aficionados. Fantastic life-like drawings of all the plants. I liked the very-slightly off-white/light-cream color of the book paper chosen too. It helps set this book up a notch.
Profile Image for Olive.
1 review
May 2, 2021
It’s just to walk me through the plant families, but it doesn’t teach me how to identify a plant family or distinguish one from another. Not very useful for a gardener either — gardening guides are to superficial.
Profile Image for Andrew Holland.
12 reviews
October 18, 2021
Hugely informative! I read this book on a long road trip and it greatly expanded my plant knowledge. The illustrations are beautiful. It's a super useful reference tool, yet my only complaint is that I wish it were a little more comprehensive. A great reference for beginners especially.
Profile Image for Saffron.
364 reviews3 followers
January 28, 2018
As with the others in this series, this is a beautifully laid out and illustrated book. Lots of information that will be useful for the continued future.
Profile Image for Laura.
12 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2021
Lovely guide. The the cladogram at the beginning outlines the entire book, each section builds off each other. I recommend this to my students struggling with understanding taxonomy.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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