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Book Review - Aquatic & Wetland Plants of NE North America

With Spring making its way slowly northward, many people's thoughts might be
soon turning to the possibilities of local aquatic plants and how they might
be used in an aquarium or their backyard pond. There are quite a few good
regional guides available, but they tend to stick pretty much to the most
commonly found species and seem to put more emphasis on "pretty pictures"
than on comprehensiveness.

Back in 1940, Norman C. Fassett wrote A Manual of Aquatic Plants and it
became a standard reference work. It was slightly updated in 1957 and you
might still find some copies kicking around used which are worth picking up.
Garrett E. Crow and C. Barre Hellquist took up the task of updating
Fassett's classic book for the 21st Century and have produced a pair of
books which are, quite simply, truly awesome in scope and depth.

Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America (Crow/Hellquist) is
published by the University of Wisconsin Press in two perfectly bound, large
format volumes. The first covers Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms and Angiosperms:
Dicotyledons while the second concerns itself with the Monocotyledons.
Together, there are 880 pages of the most incredible detail on the aquatic
and wetland species found in the Northeast you can imagine.

There are quite a number of plants listed and described which could be used
in aquariums and/or garden ponds - despite the fact that they are not

Each genus covered has a full description given, references to the main
works published on them giving author and date (and the publication details
are listed in the complete Bibliography included in the books), wonderful
keys to the species which occur in the area covered, and then detailed
species descriptions giving habitat and range information. Practically
everything is illustrated by a line drawing to aid in identification.

These are NOT casual books you would find useful in the field for ID'ing
aquatic plants - they are large format, heavy books that are best used
indoors once you have brought the plants home. But they seem to cover
EVERYTHING! A number of years ago, while mucking about in the Rouge River
watershead just east of Toronto, I came across a small pond which contained
deep red waterlilies. For the life of me, I could not find any reference to
them in any ID book that I consulted - the native waterlilies around here
are supposed to be white, or maybe sometimes pale pink - never deep rich
red. These books have finally solved the mystery. Apparently, the European
species Nymphaea alba f. rosea is sometimes encountered in North America,
and this is likely what I found. Now, I can't wait for Summer to arrive to
see if they are still growing there.

The books cover 1139 species from 295 genera in 109 families of vascular
plants (mosses are not covered). The books are arranged (for angiosperms)
following the widely used Cronquist system of classification and runs thru
literally everything you're going to encounter in a lake, bog, marsh, brook,
stream, fen or river. Fully illustrated with good line drawings (alas, no
photographs), one of the nicest features of the book are the many excellent
keys which were apparently fully tested by students before they were used in
the books.

Due to the very wide geographical range of many aquatic plants, these books
would also probably be useful to people outside the Northeast, as long as
they don't mind the steep sticker price of $90.00 US per volume. If this
were a skating contest, even the Russian Judge would have to give them a 9.5
out of 10.

James Purchase