Comprehensive Floras that Include Both Woody and Herbaceous Plants
Flora of Virginia; Alan S. Weakley, J. Christopher Ludwig, and John F. Townsend; 2012; Botanical Research Institute of Texas; 1572 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1889878386. The book is quite large and heavy but most of the content is included in the app, which can be carried in to field. See The Flora of Virginia Project.
Highly recommended. This large, comprehensive volume, many years in the making, is now the go-to book for the dedicated student of regional flora. It includes the vast majority of plant species found in Maryland.
The Plants of Pennsylvania, An Illustrated Manual, 2d Ed.; Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy Block; 2007; Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylania; 1042 pages; ISBN 978-0-8122-4003-0.
Highly recommended. This comprehensive volume includes most species found in Maryland's mountains and piedmont regions.
Woody Plants of Maryland; Brown, Melvin L., and Russell G Brown. The Book Center, University of Maryland: College Park, Md. 1984.
Herbaceous Plants of Maryland; Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown; 1964; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD. 1127 pgs.; ISBN: 0-3956-2881-4.
When published, these were the definitive sources for identification of plants in Maryland. Although the taxonomy and scientific nomenclature are now outdated, these volumes are still useful, especially because each species is illustrated.
Flora of West Virginia; P.D. Strausbaugh and Earl Core; 1978; Seneca Books, Morgantown, WV; 1119 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0890920107.
Packed with information and line drawings of every species. Especially helpful for identifying plants in the mountainous parts of our region. It provides the meanings of many scientific names. Nomenclature and taxonomy outdated.
Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Henry A. Gleason and Arthur Cronquist; 2nd edition, 1991; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 910 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0893273651.
A very comprehensive identification guide. This was for some years considered to be the definitive identification book for plants of this geographical region. The scientific nomenclature and taxonomy are now outdated.
Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual: Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Noel Holmgren, Patricia K. Holmgren, and Henry A. Gleason; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 937 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0893273996 .
This book remains a very useful reference because of the high quality of the illustrations. It consists of 827 plates containing black and white illustrations arranged and labeled to cross-reference with Gleason and Cronquist's 1991 edition. It also contains useful diagnostic details not previously presented.
Gray's Manual of Botany: A Handbook of Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Central and Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Merritt Lyndon Fernald; 8th edition, 1950; 1632 pgs.; American Book Company, New York and other cities.
Some botanists consider this book the finest resource available, despite its date. Out of print at this time but used copies are generally available. Illustrations are very limited, consisting only of small line drawings for some species.
The Flora of North America; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+; Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford.
This very comprehensive resource, which is a work-in-progress, is viewable on-line at http://www.fna.org/.
Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas; Albert E. Radford, Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell; University of North Carolina Press; 1245 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807810873.
A useful reference; it includes many plants that also occur in Maryland.
An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada; Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown; 1913; C. Scribner’s Sons, New York; Reprinted 1970, Dover Publications, New York; three volumes; ISBNs: Vol. I: 978-0486226422; Vol. II: 978-0486226439; Vol. III: 978-0486226446 . All three volumes are available online at: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/940#/summary.
This three-volume, comprehensive work is a classic, still useful although taxonomy has changed much since it was published.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region; Elbert L. Little; 1980; Knopf, New York City; 714 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0394507606.
A good book for the beginner. This book is organized by leaf type and has a fairly easy-to-use key that will lead you to the basic kind of tree (oak, birch, etc). The descriptions will then generally let you make a species-level identification. It has very good color pictures of leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit and it has interesting historical/cultural comments on many species. This book points out plants that are alien introductions.
Made for Each Other: A Symbiosis of Birds and Pines; Ronald M. Lanner; 1996; Oxford University Press, New York; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0195089035.
This fascinating ecological narrative details the close relationship between Whitebark Pine seeds, which are wingless, and Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird that depends on them and disperses them in alpine regions of the American West. The pine cannot reproduce without the help of the nutcracker, and the nutcracker cannot raise its young without feeding them the seeds of the pines. In playing out their roles, these partners change the landscape to the benefit of many other plants and animals. The pine and the nutcracker build ecosystems.
Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America; John Stein, Denise Binion, and Robert Acciavatti; 2003; USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team; 172 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1470112363. Out of print. 8.4 M pdf: http://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth/technology/pdfs/fieldguide.pdf
This spiral-bound book is well illustrated, with easy-to-view range maps and well-done drawings and photos of plant parts. It is a shame that the book is out of print, but fortunately an online version is available. (Note: For more information on oaks, see the resources listed for MNPS' Year of the Oak, 2012, accessed via main web page, www.mdflora.org.)
Silvics of North America. 1990. Vol. 1: Conifers; Vol. 2: Hardwoods. USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook 654. [Supersedes Silvics of Forest Trees of the U.S.]
This is not an identification guide, but is a useful reference aimed at the forester or professional tree grower. It provides detailed information on each species' habitat, range, climate, soils and topography, associated forest cover, life history, and growth.
Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast; Michael Wojtech; 2011; UPNE (University Press of New England); 280 pgs; ISBN: 978-1584658528.
This book includes a section on how bark is formed and a discussion of possible advantages of different kinds of bark. Has detailed keys and descriptions, and excellent photos.
Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees and Shrubs; William M. Harlow; 1959; Dover Publications, Inc., New York; 126 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0486205113.
This older but still very useful publication has two keys: The fruit key is for northeastern trees and the twig key for deciduous woody plants of eastern North America. Illustrated with photographs, which are very helpful. This is the only guide of its sort, and very useful to carry in winter. Too large for a regular pocket, but slender and lightweight, so will fit easily in a large pocket or a backpack.
Master Tree Finder: A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves; May Theilgaard Watts; 1963; Nature Study Guild Publishers; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550015.
This small, pocket-size guide (one of the "Finders" series) consists of an elementary, dichotomous key that leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified. The book can be useful, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple illustrations and range maps.
Winter Tree Finder: A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter; May Theilgaard Watts and Tom Watts;1970; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550039.
This small, pocket-size guide (in the "Finders" series) consists of a an elementary, dichotomous key, which leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified. The book is useful in winter, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple drawings and range maps.
Common Native Trees of Virginia: Tree Identification Guide; Virginia Department of Forestry; 2007; 128 pgs.
Available inexpensively from the Virginia Department of Forestry: http://www.dof.virginia.gov/shop/index-books.htm. You can also download it for free from that site. The number of species included in the book is limited. The descriptions are non-technical, and there are images of leaves, twigs, flowers and/or fruit.
Pocket Field Guides
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide; Lawrence Newcomb; 1989; Little Brown & Co.; 490 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0316604420.
Highly Recommended - Probably the best book for carrying around on a day hike when the larger books will weigh you down. Very good for general use, and even includes some woody species. It has an easy-to-use key that is good for many common, and some not-so-common, species. You will always find the Genus but an exact species identification can in some cases be difficult. This book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species. The paperback version is tough enough to last for many years.
A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Margaret McKenny and Roger Tory Peterson; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 448 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395911723.
Highly Recommended - A good book for the beginning student. Some people find the key this book uses for identification to be counter-intuitive. The book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species.
Flora of Virginia cell phone app. Illustrated keys, usable in the field. See The Flora of Virginia Project.
A Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); John C. Kricher; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co.; 512 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395928950.
This is not a field guide in the usual sense, but an introduction to forest ecology from a naturalist’s perspective. It is a good first book, helping the reader to recognize forest types. Its great value lies in its concise explanations of plant succession, types of climax forest, adaptive mechanisms, and seasonal patterns.
Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes
Grasses, Sedges, Rushes; Lauren Brown and Ted Elliman; 2020; Yale University Press.
This guide is focused primarily on grasses, sedges and rushes of the northeastern United States, many of which are also found in the mid-Atlantic region. These plants can be hard to identify, and this book can help botanical amateurs identify the common ones.
Grasses of Washington, D.C.; Kamal M. Ibrahim, Paul M. Peterson; 2014; Smithsonian Contributions to Botany No. 99, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press; 139 pgs.; ISSN: 0081-024X (print); 1938-2812 (online). Online version accessible through: http://opensi.si.edu/index.php/smithsonian/catalog/book/66.
A vegetative key, descriptions, and illustrations for the identification of 182 native and naturalized grasses that occur in Washington, D.C. The key is based on vegetative characters to allow identification primarily of specimens that do not have flowering structures (inflorescences and spikelets).
. Norton, J. B. S. 1930. The University of Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 323. September 1930.
Agnes Chases' First Book of Grasses https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/117621#page/7/mode/1up
Field Guide to Grasses of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Sarah Chamberlain; 2018; Keystone Books, Penn State Univ. Press. 184 pp; ISBN: 978-0-271-07869-4.
Featuring an easy-to-use dichotomous key, this is a user-friendly guide to more than 300 types of grasses. Contains detailed species diagrams as well as common names, habitats, and distribution. The book’s opening sections outline the parts of grass flowers and describe stem, leaf, and sheath characteristics.
Ferns and Fern Allies
Northeast Ferns: A field guide to the ferns and fern relatives of the northeastern United States. Steven W. Chadde. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 26, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1492177289
A Field Guide to Ferns and Their Related Families: Northeastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Boughton Cobb; second edition, 2005; Houghton Mifflin; 417 pgs.; ISBN: 0618394060
Recommended - This fern ID book, like all the Peterson field guides, is small enough to carry easily. It has an effective key based on various aspects of the fern, including the leaf shape. The key will usually point you to the right part of the book and, with a bit of paging, you will be able to identify most common, and some not-so-common, ferns.
Mosses and Other Bryophytes
Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians (Princeton Field Guides); Karl B. McKnight, Joseph R. Rohrer, Kirsten McKnight Ward, and Warren J. Perdrizet; 2013; Princeton University Press; 392 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0691156965.
Recommended. This is a good book for the beginner. It contains a color-tabbed system that helps readers pick out small groups of similar species. It has illustrated identification keys, and colorful habitat and leaf photos, plus many detailed line drawings and written descriptions, to help differentiate species.
Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley; Edward Uebel (editor); 2000; Maryland Native Plant Society. Download a pdf, see Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley.
The purpose of this manuscript was to preserve as much pertinent information about Maryland mosses as possible, including their abundance, location, habitats, and associations. Dr. Worthley's herbarium contained 15 collections of hornworts, representing 4 species; 1138 collections of mosses representing 191 species; and 291 collections of hepatics representing 56 species. His entire collection is now in the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Wetland / Coastal
In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook and Field Guide; Ralph W. Tiner; Revised edition, 2005; Rutgers University Press; 352 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0813536811.
This is a good introduction, for the non-scientist, to the "how, what, and why" of wetlands, and includes their development over time. It has many good illustrations. It is, in effect, an overview of the following field guide, written by the same author:
Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Northeastern United States; Ralph W. Tiner; 1993 reprint of original, 1987 edition; University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA; 344 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0870238338.
This book covers: 1. Coastal Wetland Ecology: A General Overview (different tidal wetland habitats, their description and characteristics, and typical species of each); 2. Identification of Coastal Wetland Plants (easy to use diagnostic keys); 3. Wetland plant descriptions and illustrations (this composes more than half the book, organized by environment). Each entry has the scientific and common names, family, full description, habitat, range, similar species, and very accurate diagram drawings. More than 150 species are covered.