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At long last, botanists and researchers have available a comprehensive reference guide to Kentucky's plant life. Students and teachers, landscapers and consultants, wildlife biologists, county agents, environmentalists and amateur naturalists alike, will find their jobs a little easier with Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora by Ronald L . Jones. "It is hoped that this book will be used by a wide cross section of citizens," says Jones. As Kentucky's first comprehensive book on the state flora, it provides a ready referece source for the plant life of this region.
"THis book is the first set of identification keys ever published for Kentucky, or for any state in the south-central United States," Says Jones. Plant Life of Kentucky includes many endemic species, detailed vegetation descriptions, and detailed accounts of the historic changes in the flora not included in other manuals. According to Jones, the book "incorporates many of the recently proposed major changes in the nomenclature and classification of vascular plants."
Indentifying plants "can be done in a number of ways - by looking at the book of photographs or drawings, by asking an expert, or by using diagnostic keys," Jones explains. "This book contains extensive lists of diagnostic keys to aid in identification, as well as nearly 2,000 line drawings." After identifying the plant's family, genus, and species, the book provides details on the common name, flowering period, habitat, locality, and abundance of the species, as well as its more general wildlife and human uses.
Another important feature of this book is Jones' look at the history of Kentucky's plant life and its future. "Writing this book provided me the first opportunity to research the complete floristic history of the state from 350 million years ago to the present. I developed a muhc clearer understanding of the changes that have occurred over time... From continued logging and mining to urbanization to the effects of exotic species and fungal or insect pests to global warming, it now appears that our natural communities are facing an unprecedented onslaught of threats. There are predictions of huge losses of vegetation cover and of mass extinctions in our region...The next 50 years will be crucial - either we will find ways to sustain our human populations without massive damage to the environment or we will face a continuing series of environmental crises that will seriously degrade our society." Jones emphasizes, "This is the most important message of the book."
This substantial volume is an asset to Kentucky and those who wish to gain a comprehensive understanding of Kentucky's past and present flora.
Ronald L. Jones is a professor of biological sciences and the herbarium curator at Eastern Kentucky University. He was selected as the "Kentucky Naturalist of the Year" in 2003 by the Kentucky Natural History Society.