Two New Books On Kentucky's Plant Life Available Now
After the 1962 Red River flood that devastated many lives and homes, local communities and government officials called for construction of a dam that would ultimately turn the Red River Gorge into a lake. Opposition to the building of the dam was immediate, and the University of Kentucky commissioned Wendell Berry to write An Unforeseen Wilderness to advocate for the protection of the Gorge. In 1993, a federal law protecting the Red River Gorge was passed, preserving the region and the ecosystems within it. Today, the Gorge attracts over 500,000 visitors looking to hike, rock climb, and admire the natural beauty of the region, generating nearly 4 million dollars annually in this economically deprived area.
For those who are drawn to the beauty of the Red River Gorge, Dan Dourson and Judy Dourson have published Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin, the first guide specifically devoted to the biodiversity of the Red River Gorge and its watershed and the more-than 1,500 plant species found there. The Doursons focus on the watershed in its entirety and present a detailed natural history of the region to complement the species they profile. With over 800 color photos, along with numerous line drawings, figures, and maps, it is designed to be both useful to the seasoned naturalist and accessible to the casual hiker.
The authors look at rare and endangered species in the watershed, as well as some nonflowering plants that are not widely known, such as green algae, fungi, slime molds, lichens, and mosses. Also included is a section on flowering woody vines, shrubs, and trees. Each species description includes the common name, the scientific name, physical properties, where it can be found, the type of environment it requires, how large it grows, and if it flowers or not. This extensive information, along with a picture of every species introduced, makes the book the most comprehensive nature guide to Kentucky's popular natural recreational area.
To coincide with the publication of Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin, the Doursons have also written Wild Yet Tasty: A Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern Kentucky. This compact guide follows a simple framework: a brief pictorial description of basic terms used for edible plants and detailed illustrations and descriptions for each species is included. The species descriptions include scientific as well as common and locally-used names, species characteristics and preferred location, specifics about edible plant parts, and the best time to harvest. Covering the most commonly found and easily identifiable species, from blueberries and huckleberries to wintergreen and sumac, this guide is an invaluable resource for hikers, climbers, and campers visiting the area.
A region that was almost lost is now widely recognized as one of the most significant ecosystems in the Commonwealth, featuring the microclimates that harbor plant species that can be found nowhere else in the world. Currently there are at least eight unique plant species in the region, and three of those eight are relatively new to science. Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin and Wild Yet Tasty combine to bring a new understanding to this biologically rich and popular destination.
Dan Dourson is a wildlife biologist who worked with the US Forest Service specializing in nongame management in Red River Gorge. He is the author of ten books, including Land Snails of Belize, Central America and Land Snails of West Virginia.
Judy Dourson is an educator, researcher, field technician, and editor. She has served as Dan's field assistant, primary researcher, and editor and has co-authored several books with him.