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Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains and Neighboring Territories.
by Terry Willard, Wild Rose College of, natural Healing, Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 3P5. 1992. Softcover. 277 pp $25. ISBN #0-9691727-2-9.

Terry Willard's field guide to edible and medicinal plants of the Rocky Mountains provides descriptive and use information on 150 herbs found in mountainous habitats of Western North America. Each species account includes identification details, distribution and habitat, preparations and uses, and, where appropriate, a word of caution. Synonyms for common names are included along with pronunciations and word origins for scientific names. Two hundred color photographs and pen and inks complement the text. This friendly, popular guide combines medicinal and edible use in the same text. Under shepherd's purse, for example, we are told of the edibility of the leaves in salads as well as the roasted seeds. A good review of medicinal uses is also provided. This is a book for those who wish to explore the practical side of things herbal from the field.

Michael Moore writes in the foreword, "You need to get your hands dirty, your feet sore, your forehead scratched by branches. You need to go out in your wild-lands, check the plants over different seasons, different years, find out firsthand what can be spared, what cannot. You need to get to know the plants, how much you can kill (yes, kill, for, after all, aren't all animals parasitic on plants?) and what you may need to spare or replant so that they thrive after you leave."

This is a book about how to appreciate plants in the field, and, if you develop enough of the skills in identification, harvest, and appreciation, you learn how to use the plants themselves. Occasionally, the reader is not given enough information to accomplish these purposes. The distribution and habitat sections often contain only information on habitat. Distribution is ambiguous, especially given the large area of the North American continent delineated by the author. Under the distribution and habitat discussion of the glacier lily we are told, "This flower is so anxious to come out in the spring and show its beauty, one often sees it in snow beds along alpine brooks." The reader doesn't have a whole lot to go on. Perhaps this is good, however. Perhaps the author wishes only to offer a clue, and allow the reader to seek further knowledge of where the plant actually grows.

Like discovering a beautiful Rocky Mountain vista after reaching the crest of a mountain foothill, Willard explores the wilderness of useful plants of Western North America -- a geographic region with a paucity of medicinal plant books, except for the works of Michael Moore. The field users, be they beginner or experienced, will find delight in the Indian lore and use suggestions that simply are not available in other herb books.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Steven Foster