Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Second Edition. by Steven Foster and James Duke. Houghton-Mifflin, 2000. 512 pp., more than 300 color photos. ISBN 0395-988-144 (paper); ISBN 0935-988-152 (cloth)
Any season of the year is a good time to buy field guides to help identify plants in a particular geographical area. They carry readers through the winter with the promise of summertime hikes. North America has such diverse plant distribution, that regionalized guides are a necessity. This one covers the eastern and central U.S. There are probably none more expert on native American plants than these two authors. They have both distinguished themselves in the area of herbal medicine to millions of readers of their books and magazine articles. The first edition of this book became one of the best sellers in the entire Peterson Field Guide Series, selling over 125,000 copies. I have used my dog-eared copies countless times since it was published in 1990. (I have two copies, the hardcover I keep in my home library and the paperback that has it a bit rougher in and out of my daypack.)
The new edition features more than 300 new photos by Steven Foster, America's pre-eminent herbal photographer, whose images have graced the pages of HerbalGram for about a decade. Unlike the previous edition, where the photos are bunched up in a four-color section in the middle, requiring the reader to continuously thumb back and forth between the text and the photographs-a typical cost-savings effort by the publisher-this edition places the photos (often more than one for a particular species, showing the plant in both flowering and fruiting stages) directly with the text on each plant. This added convenience is immeasurable, as any field botanist or weekend hiker will attest.
This edition covers more than 500 of the 800-plus plants that grow in the eastern U.S. and have been documented to provide some medicinal use. The text of this edition is also completely revised; this book has about 45 more pages than the first edition. Of course, like any respectable field guide, there is adequate nomenclature (Latin binomial, common and family names), plant part used in food or medicine, terse but adequate botanical description, area of distribution, etc. This edition also includes more medicinal information than the previous, including types of use noted traditionally (as a tea, etc.), data from Chinese traditional medicine on related species, adequate warnings (with appropriate symbols), etc. A glossary of terms is included. Like most guides, plants are grouped by the color of the flowers by a color guide at the bottom of the page that "bleeds" to the page edge for quick reference.