Every book has a reason for its being, - or should have. There are excellent flower books, galore, but apparently there is a break in the series into which it is hoped the present volume will make a welcome fit. We are living in a progressive age, an inquisitive age, an age in which we want to know the names and meaning of all we see and hear. I have always held that a well-executed colored picture, as a means of identification, is worth pages of text. Of course the text is necessary to call attention to the salient points of the picture. In the case of flowers, birds, mammals, etc., the habits, ranges, sizes and other important points must be obtained from the text, but the picture, itself, forms the basis of quick and sure identification.
I was practically brought up among birds and, consequently, flowers, because the two are inseparable companions in the fields. Wherever I wandered, I had one eye open for "new" flowers. Every such prize went home with me; if not carried in the hand, why, - in the top of the hat. No sooner home than out came the old "Gray's", the microscope and dissecting points. Sister and I eagerly weighed the evidence, placing the "find" in one family and then another, as discrepancies were found, until at last, we had it cornered down to the family, the genus and, finally, the exact species.
Every new invention is designed to accomplish some end quicker or better than it has been done before.
Every step aims to be a step in advance. The scientific botanist, a term correlary to that of "closet Naturalist" used in Ornithology, still does, and always will, analyze his flowers. The layman, however, has no interest in whether the seeds have copious albumen, or not, or in the number of cells in the plant ovary; he sees a flower, - it may be beautiful, it may be odd or even its very ugliness may attract his attention, but he wants to know what it is. To such seekers, and they include the majority of Nature lovers, scientific botany is as a foreign tongue, but the popular book with the colored pictures furnishes an open key to knowledge.
That is why this book appears: - We do not claim it to be perfect, for we know its shortcomings. But, in so far as it lies in our power, it has been made to serve the most people to their best advantage, taking into consideration the limitations set upon size and upon price.
Flowers vary endlessly in size, in color and shape. Some have simple stems, others are very branchy and bushlike in appearance. Obviously if we attempted to draw the whole of a branching plant, reducing it down to the size of a small page, the flowers would be so tiny they could barely be seen. In all cases it has been our object to show the flower and that part of the plant that will best serve to identify it. In nearly every case the typical form of flower and of leaf is shown.
To as great an extent as is practical, all technical terms have been avoided. In order, however, that one may if he wish learn the meanings of the botanical. terms that are in very common use, a Glossary is provided.
The opening pages touch briefly upon the subject of pollenization and propagation of plants. This is a study in itself and an exceedingly interesting one. There is still opportunity for a great deal of valuable research in this line of study; in fact, it is in the hope of awakening interest in this line that the many brief allusions in the text, to the methods of fertilization are made. The interdependence existing between the plant, the insect and the animal world is amazing. One will be astonished at the truths he will discover by closely watching the living plants and their visitors.
The body of the book contains plants, chiefly herbs, found east of the Rocky Mountains, that are conspicuous in flower. These are arranged in their natural and most approved order. Many attempts have been made to group flowers according to their colors, but there are so many colors and flowers of the same species vary so greatly that all such attempts have been chiefly failures as far as assisting easy identification is concerned.
About 90 per cent of the paintings, from which the colored illustrations were made, were sketched and colored directly from freshly collected flowers gathered from Maine to Virginia. I have been very greatly assisted in the work by many friends, and am especially indebted to Mrs. Ella L. Horr, Custodian at the Worcester Natural History Museum, and to Mr. Herbert D. Braman, Curator in the Dept, of Mineralogy, in the same Institution; very many of the flowers figured herein, especially some of the rarer varieties, were collected and kindly loaned by them.
The technical descriptions and ranges are based chiefly upon "Gray's Manual" and "Britton and Brown". The scientific names and order of classification are those adopted by the international Botanical Congress, the same as now incorporated in the new seventh edition of "Gray's."
Chester A. Reed, Worcester, Mass. March, 1910.