Field guides and other books

Field Guides

When considering a useful field guide, look for one that is specific to your bioregion if it is available.

Here are some recommended field guides as you begin to learn plant identification skills.  I have personally used each of these.


National Audubon Society Field Guides

  • wildflowers
  • trees and shrubs


Peterson Field Guides

  • wildflowers
  • trees and shrubs
  • medicinal plants
  • edible plants
  • ferns

Smaller pocket guides such as these from the Great Smoky Mountains Association . . .


Some field guides specific to the Western North Carolina region include . . .

  • Wild Flowers of North Carolina
  • Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
  • A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians
  • Native Trees of the Southeast


As you expand your studies, you may want to acquire these field guides . . .

  • Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide
  • The Shrub Identification Book
  • Wildflowers and Winter Weeds

Plant terminology books

Plant Identification TerminologyPlant Identification Terminology is, as the subtitle indicates, “An Illustrated Glossary.”  This second edition was written by James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris in 2001. The majority of the book consists of an alphabetical listing of plant terms with over nineteen hundred detailed drawings to illustrate the terms.  The second portion of the book focuses on terminology specific to such categories as roots, stems, leaves, surfaces, inflorescences, flowers and fruits.

How to Identify PlantsHow to Identify Plants, written in 1957 by H.D. Harrington and L.W. Durrell (and re-issued in 1997), contains useful information about plants and plant terms.  Separate chapters focus on terms relative to the flower, the inflorescence, underground parts, the stem, leaves, and surfaces.  The latter portion of the book contains an illustrated glossary of plant terms.  Line drawings are liberally sprinkled throughout each chapter.