The word gymnosperm literally means “naked seed” (gymno=naked, sperm=seed). Gymnosperms have their seeds exposed unlike flowering plants, the angiosperms, which have their seeds enclosed in an ovary (i.e., fruit). The word angiosperm derives its meaning from angio=vessel, sperm=seed.
Pine trees are the most often cited example of a gymnosperm. But what about the other gymnosperms? How do we know when we see one? Do all gymnosperms have cones?
These questions and many others are answered in Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada. This user-friendly reference was written by Dr. Elray S. Nixon and illustrated by Bruce Lyndon Cunningham.
Lavishly illustrated, this guide is a welcome balance of botanical terminology and descriptive illustrations. Dr. Nixon’s jargon-free text is supported by Bruce’s informative illustrations. Dr. Nixon begins his book explaining what gymnosperms are and where they can be found. He then provides clear instruction on how to use identification keys and teaches readers how to begin thinking about cones, leaves, and bark — the three characteristics which are the focus of this book. Dr. Nixon focuses on these characters because they are observable throughout the year.
If you have used identification keys before, you are all too familiar with how easy it is to make a wrong turn while working through a dichotomous key. Fortunately in Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada, the likelihood of you going astray has been minimized by Bruce’s illustrations. If you ever doubt your progress working through any of the keys, all you need to do is refer to one of the 115 botanical plates Bruce created. Each plate includes a sketch of a mature plant and illustrations of leaves, cones, arils, seeds, and bark. A range map showing the distribution of each species is also included.
Dr. Nixon and Bruce describe 115 species of gymnosperms growing in coniferous gymnosperm forests, gymnosperm foothill (pinyon-juniper) forests, and gymnosperm (Ephedra) shrubland. The divisions, families and genera featured in this book are:
- DIVISION: Cycadophyta
- Family: Zamiazeae (Sago Palm Family)
- Genus: Zamia
- DIVISION: Ginkophyta
- Family: Ginkoaceae (Maidenhair Tree or Ginkgo Family)
- Genus: Ginkgo
- DIVISION: Gnetophyta
- Family: Ephedraceae (Ephedra Family)
- Genus: Ephedra
- DIVISION: Pinophyta
- Family: Taxaceae (Yew Family)
- Genus: Taxus
- Genus: Torreya
- Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)
- Genus: Pinus
- Genus: Larix
- Genus: Picea
- Genus: Tsuga
- Genus: Abies
- Genus: Pseudotsuga
- Family: Cupressaceae (Redwood or Cypress Family)
- Genus: Taxodium
- Genus: Sequoia
- Genus: Sequoiadendron
- Genus: Juniperus
- Genus: Callistris
- Genus: Cupressus
- Genus: Chamaecyparis
- Genus: Thuja
- Genus: Calocedrus
Abundant illustrations, easy-to-follow keys, and clear descriptive text make this guide a great resource to use when learning about the gymnosperms in your area. This guide also serves as a gentle introduction to dichotomous keys. If you have avoided plant keys because of the botanical terminology they contain, you might want to try the keys in this book. Dr. Nixon provides concise definitions to the botanical terms you need to know and Bruce provides an illustration for each term. This all-inclusive resource is sure to be a welcome companion on your next trip to your local forest or national park.
Learn How Bruce Creates Illustrations for Field Guides
Join us for Ask The Artist with Bruce Lyndon Cunningham on Monday December 13, 2010 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (PST). Bruce has illustrated many field guides and during this live online event, he will discuss how he worked with Dr. Nixon to create the illustrations for this new book. This event is FREE. To join in on this conversation, register here.
Can’t make it to the live event? Please register anyway. Registered attendees will receive access to a recording of this event.
Gymnosperms of the United States & Canada is available at ArtPlantae Books. Each copy is signed by the artist and costs $70.