Page  134



Emmet J. Judziewicz, Robert W. Freckman, Lynn G. Clark, and Merel R. Black. 2014. Field Guide to Wisconsin Grasses. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. ix + 396 pp. ISBN 978-0-299-30134-7. Paperback. $29.95 (also available as an e-book for $24.95).

Andrew L. Hipp. 2008. Field Guide to Wisconsin Sedges: An Introduction to the Genus Carex (Cyperaceae). The University of Wisconsin press, Madison. xi + 265 pp. ISBN 978-0-299-22594-1. Paperback. $29.95 (also available as an e-book for $19.95) (out of print in hardcover).

A significant component of nearly all ecosystems consists of the graminoids—grasses (family Poaceae), sedges (family Cyperaceae), and rushes (family Juncaceae)—and in ecosystems such as prairies and wetlands, where they are particularly numerous in species, they also form the bulk of the biomass. Accurate identification of graminoids is therefore essential for any floristic study, ecological survey, restoration project, or similar endeavor. Unfortunately, these ecologically and floristically important plant groups are rarely included at all in wildflower guides and other popular references. In many places, one must depend on standard floras that, although including graminoids, often do little to make identification easy, relying primarily on keys, only sometimes containing descriptions (often short), and often lacking any illustrative materials. Such flo- ras generally give short shrift to explanations of the unique structural features of these plants and the specialized terminology necessary for understanding and identifying them. For an expert, this may be no great barrier, but for the novice, it creates a steep learning curve indeed.

Wisconsin is fortunate in having two up-to-date guides that cover all species of two major groups of graminoids. The first book under review covers all of the grass species in Wisconsin, and its companion covers all of the species of Carex, which, with 157 species, is the largest genus of sedges in Wisconsin. Both of these volumes go to great lengths to make life easy for the novice and expert alike, while still being complete and technically accurate.

Let’s look at the Field Guide to Wisconsin Grasses first. The book starts with a detailed introduction to grass structure, replete with photographs of such things as culms (stems), leaves (including sheaths, auricles, and ligules), all the details and variations of inflorescences—spikelets and their various arrangements, glumes, and lemmas—and finally the tiny flowers. There is a key to genera, ac- companied by detailed line drawing of the relevant characters in the margin. The key is preceded by several very useful features: (i) a discussion of what to look for in identifying an unknown grass, with reference to several critical characters,

(ii) lists of grasses with unusual characters, and (iii) a list and short descriptions of the ten commonest grass species in the state. The main part of the book is devoted to a species-by-species account,

Page  135 2015 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 135

arranged alphabetically by genus. Each genus has a short description and, if there are more than one species in Wisconsin, a key to species. The individual species treatments vary somewhat, depending on what is felt to be needed in each case. There may be a short description; more commonly, however, a brief statement of characters contrasting the species with related, or similar, species, is given. Habi- tat and distribution data is generally included, as well as a county distribution map. Most usefully, most accounts contain both photographs and line drawing of important characteristics.

Field Guide to Wisconsin Sedges takes a somewhat different approach. Al- though there is a brief discussion of structure and terminology, the principal early portion of the book is a breakdown of the genus Carex into two subgenera and then into artificial groupings within each subgenus. Several keys are pro- vided, ultimately reaching all species of Carex in Wisconsin. These are followed by a lengthy treatment of the several sections of the genus, each with a descrip- tion, and a discussion of the species within the section. All of this preliminary material is based on the sound idea that learning sedges is made much easier by grasping the subgenera and sections before trying to tackle identification of in- dividual species. The individual species treatments, which constitute about half of the book, treat 55 common species in detail. Each treatment contains a brief diagnostic statement, a detailed description of the plant, a description of the habitat and range within the state, and, significantly, a detailed discussion of sim- ilar species and discussions between them. Each treatment is also accompanied by an illustration in ink and watercolor by the artist Rachel D. Davis containing both a view of the habit of the plant and a detailed view of the inflorescence or individual perigynia (the closed sac-like structures that enclose the female flow- ers). Distribution maps of all species of Carex in the state, prepared by Merel R. Black and Theodore S. Cochrane, are collected in an appendix.

A particularly valuable feature of both volumes under review is a discussion of the plant communities in which species of grasses or sedges occur, along with lists of species for each habitat. For the novice in particular, this is a very useful aid in narrowing down the process of identifying an unknown. This portion of the sedge guide was prepared by Theodore S. Cochrane.

Because a large percentage of the species treated in both of the field guides tend to occur in suitable habitats throughout the western Great Lakes region, these volumes will be valuable resources for students and investigators alike throughout this region.

——Michael Huft