Journal archives for May 2024

May 06, 2024

IN-Naturalist Bibliography

I’ve realized that growing up, I was privileged to have access to many of these books. A lot of these are really special pieces and it’s unfortunate that more of them aren’t easily accessible in libraries. In my opinion, having access to high-quality reference material that is precisely tuned to a certain region (in my case, Indiana) is one of the best tools for anyone studying living things around them. The list is in chronological order of when I got them, roughly. This selection is biased towards plants and doesn't include books on birds, mammals, fish, or fungi--I have books on those that I love and will make a part 2 post eventually. Something that must be kept in mind--the authors of these books are not demographically diverse, which is not an accurate reflection of the demographic diversity of naturalists and nature lovers in Indiana. Still, each of these authors are experts and their passion for living things is obvious.

--Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eric R. Eaton, Kenn Kaufman, 2007 (Houghton Mifflin Company)
A quintessential field guide. As the title says, the scope of the book is quite large, so obviously the authors had to make some concessions as to which taxa were described. Still, the book is efficiently laid out and easy and fun to flip through. Eric Eaton worked on the Cincinnati Zoo’s “World of the Insect” exhibit which is easily one of the best insect exhibits ever. There’s now a probably better field guide, Insects of North America by John C. Abbott and Kendra Abbott, which includes keys to orders and families.

--Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana, Sherman A. MInton, Jr., 2001 (Indiana Academy of Science)
This was probably the first “serious” naturalist reference that I got, probably when I was about 10–I am 21 now. Many of the photographs in this book are permanently burned into my mind. Published by the IAS (as are most of the other books on this list, must have been a good year for them). Simply a great, beautiful book written by Sherman Minton Jr., son of Indiana State Senator and Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton, who has a bridge named after him on the Ohio River.

--Dragonflies of Indiana, James R. Curry, 2001 (Indiana Academy of Science)
Dragonflies, along with butterflies, are one of the luckier groups of insects, in being large, beautiful and not usually scary. As a result they tend to have better coverage in book form than other groups. This book is really great. James R. Curry was a biology professor at Franklin college. Naturally, many of the photographs are of specimens from the nearby Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area. My only complaint with the book is that I wish they chose a different image for the front cover.

--Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers, Kay Yatskievych, 2000 (Indiana University Press)
The definitive field guide to wildflowers of Indiana–it has every herbaceous flowering plant found in the state, except graminoids. Plants are numbered, and one photograph is provided for every group of visually similar species. It doesn’t have a key; its instructions for identification are to look at line drawings in the front of the book from certain characteristic genera, and then go to those pages to find a match. This method works much better once you have become familiar with most of the local flowering plant families--at which point you probably don't need the guide anymore. This should probably be used instead of Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, in my opinion.

--The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest, Thomas M. Antonio & Susanne Masi, 2001 (Indiana Academy of Science)
This may just be the most beautiful book on the list (if not this one, then the next one is). Plants are organized by color and shape, and a key is provided in the back. The species accounts each have a large photograph on the left, with a description and discussion on the right. Each species also has etymology and a garden suitability rating. It has a great excerpt from another book in the front that I really like. One of my botanical bibles. It’s hard not to feel happy while flipping through.

--Orchids of Indiana, Michael A. Homoya, 1993 (Indiana Academy of Science)
A brilliant book. One of my botanical bibles. Beautiful photos, illustrations, discussions and also some great history on orchidology in Indiana. Even the “Excluded species” section is fun to read through. Michael Homoya, former DNR botanist, clearly knows his stuff when it comes to orchids and Indiana, and I find myself coming back to this book more routinely than any other on this list. This is probably one of the books that got me into plants more seriously.

--Caterpillars of Eastern North America, David L. Wagner, 2001 (Princeton University)
My understanding is this was one of the first identification books that focused on caterpillars. Host plants are listed and images of adults are shown next to the larger pics of the caterpillars themselves. My only complaint with this one is that there’s no real key or guide to identification, so you pretty much just have to flip through until you find a picture that looks like your caterpillar (which is how I tend to identify most organisms anyway). Knowing the host plant helps.

--Sedges of Indiana and the Adjacent States: (Vol I) The Non-Carex Species, Paul E. Rothrock, 2009 (Indiana Academy of Science)
When I first got this book, I literally did not know what a sedge was. Based on the cover, I thought maybe a sedge was a certain type of wetland habitat, like a bog or a fen–or a sedge meadow (I now know that many habitats are characterized by the presence of certain sedges). So, I was a little bit discouraged when it turned out that it was pretty hard to find most of these non-Carex sedges in central and south-central Indiana, except for the weedy Cyperus and Eleocharis species–and I couldn't even use the book to key out the conspicuous, green, “spiky grasses” (Carex grayi and C. lupulina) at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve. A mind-expanding book for me, and one that I really should study more.

--Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis, Gerould Wilhelm & Laura Rericha, 2017 (Indiana Academy of Science)
Definitely a botanical bible. While flipping through it, you will laugh, you will cry. You will have your mind expanded and you probably won’t look at things the same way after reading the essays in it. Really great line drawings, and also a good set of photos at the beginning and end. Insect and arthropod associates are listed for plants, although some seem to be more thoroughly reviewed than others.

--Sedges of Indiana and the Adjacent States: (Vol II) The Carex Species, Paul E. Rothrock, 2021 (Indiana Academy of Science)
This has now become one of my botanical bibles. The book has an air of optimism to it that I don’t know how to describe. It has 2 guest essays and an appendix from Laura Rericha with images of specialist ant species associated with Carex species. Beautiful photographs and great discussions.

--“The Natural Regions of Indiana,” Michael A. Homoya, D. Brian Abrell, James R. Aldrich & Thomas W. Post, 1985 (Indiana Academy of Science)
Not a book, but still a publication that I think every naturalist in Indiana should be familiar with. Almost all of the "... of Indiana" guides cite this publication and its map, and explain how their taxa fit in to these regions. I never actually looked at this original publication until about a year or two ago, but I'm glad I did. This article combines early land surveying data with biogeographical data, especially on plants and herps, to describe what makes each area of the state different from the rest. Very elucidating.

--Flora of Indiana, Charles C. Deam, 1940 (“Indiana. Dept. of Conservation. Division of forestry”)
A legendary book, supposedly one of the earliest complete floras of Indiana. I think it still has utility today, and certainly could be used as a reference point for how the flora has changed. If you don't know about Charles Deam, read this article: (page 48).

Most of these books I acquired from the gift shop at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. Many of the IAS books can be purchased direct from their website, although they can be pricey. Some of them are available in libraries (especially check college libraries or older city libraries). Some may be available online for free from certain websites.

Posted on May 06, 2024 08:41 PM by danlego danlego | 3 comments | Leave a comment