FOG highly recommends Grassland Flora, a Field Guide for the Southern Tablelands (NSW and ACT), by David Eddy, Dave Mallinson, Rainer Rehwinkel and Sarah Sharp. It is an easy to use field guide for grassy ecosystems with numerous colour photographs and some illustrations of grassland plants of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT. This book of 156 pages is incredible value. First published 1998, third revised edition 2020. See also the companion book, Woodland Flora.
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Kim Pullen wrote a review of the book in the May - June 1999 FoG newsletter:
Grassland Flora Book Review by Kim Pullen
Grassland Flora: A Field Guide for the Southern Tablelands by David Eddy, Dave Mallinson, Rainer Rehwinkel and Sarah Sharp. Environment ACT, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), World Wide Fund for Nature Australia (WWF), Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG), NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation and Snowy Mountains Authority, 1998. 157 pp. $15.00.
Those of you who read the March - April 1999 issue of this newsletter will have seen co-author David Eddy's notice about this significant book, and many will no doubt already have a copy. Grassland Flora is the product of four Canberra-based field botanists- David with WWF, Dave Mallinson with ANBG, Rainer with NPWS and Sarah with Environment ACT- who together command a wealth of knowledge of the local grassland flora. With the assistance of numerous consultants, advisers and photographers, they have produced a first-class field guide.
Grassland Flora covers the, Southern Tablelands region of NSW and the ACT as depicted in the included map, an area extending from the Crookwell district south through Canberra and the Monaro to the Victorian border. In this sense, the 'Southern Tablelands' does not include the high ranges of the region. The guide aims to enable the non-specialist to identify not only the herbaceous plants likely to be seen on natural grassland and grassy woodland sites, but also the more common shrubs and even the overstorey Eucalypts.
It is an unfortunate fact that an alien/ exotic/weed-free grassland site probably no longer exists on the Southern Tablelands. Perhaps because they are so ubiquitous, exotics are given equal treatment in this book which is as it should be, since when it comes to identification there is nothing that distinguishes exotics as a group. Moreover, some 'exotic looking' plants turn out to be natives!
Fittingly in a grassland flora, the species treatments begin with the grasses, and of the grasses what better one to start with than Kangaroo Grass? The entry gives the common name, botanical name (Themeda australis), a synonym by which the species is also known (T. triandra), and the family (Poaceae), followed by the text arranged in dot points under the headings: description; status and distribution; management notes; and similar species. Facing the page of text are four colour photographs, to help identify the species, illustrating green and senescent foliage, a seedhead with mature seed, and a broader view of a community dominated by Kangaroo Grass. Three photographers contributed to this page and no less than 24 to the whole book, a remarkable feat of organisation on the part of the authors and one that, I am sure, contributes greatly to the overall quality of the illustrations. Where no photo was available or to illustrate morphological detail (e.g. with Glycine) we have line drawings by Rainer Rehwinkel.
Throughout the book the text entries follow the same standard format as that outlined above for Kangaroo Grass, although the format is often abbreviated. Symbols placed in the margin indicate which species are annuals (A), exotics (E), noxious (N), and/or threatened (T). Exotic species also carry an asterisk before the botanical name. Personally, I found myself thinking 'Endangered' instead of 'exotic' each time an E symbol came up, but no doubt I will get used to it. Kangaroo Grass is on the first of 38 pages of grasses, followed by rushes and sedges. Of the forbs, the lilies and orchids are first separated - the remainder, comprising about 30 families with the daisies predominating, are grouped simply as forbs. The final two categories are ferns, and shrubs and trees. The authors don't claim to include all the herbaceous species recorded from the region (more than 500 are known!), but hope most species likely to be seen are distinguishable.
Short introductory chapters explain why grassy ecosystems are important and briefly cover threatened plants and communities, animals, management and how to use the guide. The final few pages include references, further reading, an index of common and botanical names, including synonyms an xxplanation of terms and a glossary. This list is short, since the authors have taken pains to avoid using botanical terms.
Grassland Flora is attractive, compact and crammed with information and illustrations. At only $15.00 I consider it a bargain, and an essential companion for anyone, experienced botanist or strolling naturalist alike, finding her or himself in a Southern Tablelands grassland wondering what the surprising variety of surrounding plants might be. With the publication in Victoria in the last couple of years of two similar guides, the grassland botanist is better equipped than ever to identify the flora.