In Missoula, we just passed the average last frost date (though looking at the forecast it might frost later this week) and as a result of surpassing this momentous calendar date, the most common discussions I’ve been hearing/ having at the office (apart from fish and wildlife stuff is) “I put my plants out”, “did you put your plants out?”, “Is it too late to put my plants out? “, “When should I put my plants out?”, “I’m putting my plants out this weekend.” You get the idea- gardening is on people’s minds now.
Also, a lot of people have been working on their native plant gardens. So as a result, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for book recommendations for field guides, and pictures of what to put in their gardens- especially for guides to Montana native plants. There are lots of books out there, and everyone has their favorites, but these are a few of my favorites, and it’s my blog, so here you go.
Vascular Plants of Montana, Robert Dorn
This is a dichotomous key, and lacks the colorful photos, but it is the best, and it is a handy size. It includes a glossary, and wonderful line drawings. You do need a little botanical background (or a willingness to learn!), as far as dichotomous keys go, this is a really easy one and even has some natural history in the descriptions. It is by far my most used book, and it is the reference I always use. Get it and you will not regret it. Here’s a tip- all the cool people just refer to this book as “Dorn”, don’t tell them I told you.
Along the same lines as Vascular Plants of Montana, another great book, though huge, is Klaus Lackshewitz’s Plants of West-Central Montana, aka, “Lackshewitz”. This is the reference to use when you can’t find it in Dorn (See what I did there? Dorn.).
Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, Wayne Philips
This is a wonderful book and is a great complement to Dorn’s vascular Plants of Montana. Wayne is the past-president of the Montana Native Plant Society and is truly a special Montana plant resource. His knowledge of the plants, their habitats, natural history and even their place in cultural history come out in the thorough descriptions and comments. It is really easy to use and you can quickly identify species based on their flower; however that is also its drawback- if the plant is not in flower you might have a tough time.
Wildflowers of Montana, Donald Schiemann
Wildflowers of Montana is a beautifully illustrated book showing over 350 species of plants and over 400 photograph. The range maps in Montana are excellent and the descriptions of the plants and their habitats are very good. This is a great complimentary book to the ones above.
The bible by Sheila Morrison: The Magic of Montana Native Plants, A Gardeners Guide to Growing over 150 Species from Seed.
There is no substitute. This book, self-published by the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society’s own Sheila Morrison, is the ultimate reference on how to germinate almost anything. Sheila also published one of the other most used books on my bookshelf, 29 Bitterroot Trails.
So, get out there and botanize. Grab your copy of Dorn and hit the trails, especially the ones in the Bitterroots using Sheila’s guide to get you there.