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A New Must-Have Plant Identification Book for Kansas

Oenothera macrocarpa (MO evening primrose) - photo by Michael John Haddock

Oenothera macrocarpa (MO evening primrose) – photo by Michael John Haddock

For 35 years, Janét E. Bare’s popular book Wildflowers and Weeds of Kansas has been one of the standards for plant identification in Kansas. When I moved back to Kansas in 1998 with a fresh botany/ecology degree, a new job in environmental consulting that required plant identification, and a desire to know the name of every plant I could find, I knew that Bare’s hardback book with mostly black and white photos had to be in my library. The going rate for this 509-page out-of-print book was around $100 at the time and I felt lucky to find a nice copy at a used book store in Kansas City for $50.


For Kansas, I have collected to date what I consider to be fourteen helpful plant identification resources (see list below). In addition to Bare’s multiple decades standard, they include a number of good paperback books with color photos, some with line drawings and county maps, and the behemoth 1402-page hardback resource Flora of the Great Plains as the most comprehensive, but very technical resource without photographs. For years, I carried a bulky collection of these books in a backpack and always had the rest close at hand back at the car or office.


Allium stellatum (pink wild onion) – photo by Michael John Haddock

Thanks to a new publication by University of Kansas Press, however, wildflower identification in Kansas just became much easier. Janét Bare teamed up with two of the most talented botanists in the state, Craig C. Freeman and Michael John Haddock (both with publications of their own – see below) to produce the updated Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds, a must-have resource for plant enthusiasts.


Zizia aurea (golden alexanders) – photo by Michael John Haddock

As the dust jacket states, “For purposes of identification, conservation, study, or the simple pleasure of thumbing through, it is a resource without parallel.” It has 742 color photographs, up-to-date nomenclature, taxonomic descriptions and a dichotomous identification key, and interesting information with regard to habitat, commonness, moisture preference, phenology, ecology, herbal/medicinal traits, DNA and more. My one critique of the book is that it does not include helpful county presence maps (only has region presence codes), but I’m sure the authors considered this and figured that including these maps would add even more pages and size to an already large 518-page resource.

Haddock KWW 3c

This book has descriptions for 1,163 species of wildflowers and a handful of woody plants (an increase from 831 species in Bare’s earlier book) and covers roughly 56 percent of the state’s native and naturalized flora. It could be labeled both a coffee table book and a comprehensive field guide. (To get a copy signed by Haddock, come to our Summer Soirée on June 28.)

Glandularia canadensis (rose verbena) - photo by Michael John Haddock

Glandularia canadensis (rose verbena) – photo by Michael John Haddock

Put this new book in your backpack along with Iralee Barnard’s new grasses resource and H.A. Stephen’s woody plants book (see list below), and you should be able to identify most common plants found on an outing in Kansas.


 Happy botanizing! ~Brad

 Helpful Plant Identification Books

(in addition to the new Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds by Haddock, Freeman, and Bare)

Atlas of the Flora of the Great Plains
Great Plains Flora Association
Iowa State University Press, 1977

Field Guide to the Common Grasses of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska
Iralee Barnard
University Press of Kansas, 2014

Field Guide to the Common Weeds of Kansas
Prepared by T. M. Barkley
Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station and Division of Biology, Kansas State University
Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station contribution number 82-547-B
University Press of Kansas, 1983

Flora of the Great Plains
Great Plains Flora Association
T.M. Barkley, Editor
University Press of Kansas, 1986

Kansas Grasses
Clenton E. Owensby
Kansas Publishing Inc., 2004

Kansas Prairie Wildflowers
Clenton E. Owensby
Iowa State University Press, 1980

Roadside Wildflowers of the Southern Great Plains
Craig Carl Freeman and Eileen K. Schofield
University Press of Kansas, 1991

Sedges: Carex
Roberts H. Mohlenbrock
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines in Kansas
H.A. Stephens
University Press of Kansas, 1969

Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains
James Stubbendieck, Geir Y. Friisoe, and Margaret R. Bolick
Nebraska Department of Agriculture, 1994

Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas: A Field Guide
Michael John Haddock
University Press of Kansas, 2005

Wildflowers and Other Plants of Iowa Wetlands
Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa
Iowa State University Press, 1999

Wildflowers and Weeds of Kansas
Janet E. Bare
Regents Press of Kansas, 1979

Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie: The Upper Midwest
Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa
Iowa State University Press, 1989