Books and Good Reading
David Burnie has a spectacular CV. A graduate from Bristol University with a Degree in Zoology.  A writer and editor of specialised books, he has written or otherwise contributed to more than 75 titles - both books and multimedia, on natural sciences.

He is said to be a keen bird watcher and botanist and a widely travelled student of animal and plant life, as well as contributing to several nature guides and acting as consultant and scriptwriter to natural history TV programmes.  This book, 'Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean' is a worthy tome which could almost have been written for use right here on the Rodopos peninsula in north western Crete. 

Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean Author: David Burnie.
Dorling Kindersley
ISBN  0-7513-2761-1 .
Price: 9.99 GB Pounds (around 13).                                     
Source. Publisher. Bookshops.

Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean: The Review.

21.5 x 15 x 2cm. Length; width; thickness.  Weight 598gms. Cover: waterproof.  Paper - gloss.

Do such observations matter about a book on Mediterranean wild flowers?  The answer may well lie, if you will excuse this dreadful pun, 'Blowing in the Wind' (an ancient Seekers song) - literally if you want to take this tome out on your flower seeking expeditions rather than keeping it safely on your bookshelf.  But hang on, what about the book?  The contents? Is it any good? It is, definitely....

320 very informative, superbly presented and illustrated pages which are the hallmark of Dorland Kindersley publications. Even the front and rear covers are illustrated.  I only counted three pages without illustrations.  And most of the pictures are good enough for flower identification on the fly, especially since they also show the leaves - and in some cases he seeds - all important aspects. Some species, such as Leguminasae (Pea family) depend firmly on such aspects being available with the samples (and a good book) right in front of you.  Right there in the field.  Your camera can help.  A digital is almost a must.  But you can't beat the 'I spy' approach unless you are an out and out expert.  How many of us are called Polunin, or Sfikas?  Or, dare I suggest it, Burnie?

The Book...

The brief foreword about the region covered is just that. Brief.

The introductions about 'Family Tree', How the book works, Plant Life Cycles, Plant Profiles, Growth Habits, Leaf Types and Flower Types; Fruits and Seeds; Observing Wild Flowers; and Identification Key, particularly the latter, are all useful references. Beginners need have no fear.  But it is the bulk of the book, based on plant families, which make the book so useful, relatively easy to follow (in many instances very easy) and rewarding to use.  Don't expect to find information on individual flower scents, although there even a couple of observations on that. And don't expect to find everything in the book - just most things, almost everything in fact, that you are likely to come across.  

The majority of the illustrations contain a small image of the whole plant in each case; plus a main image of the actual flower - in a few cases also a vertical section of the flower; the leaves; and in some cases the seeds/seed cases; and where useful a picture of the root.  Whilst  not encouraging digging up of wild flowers to view the root, specimen collection or removal from a site for conservation are valid reasons if such actions are valid and legally permitted.  

In Practice: I have used David Burnies' book extensively here on Crete for around three years now, particularly in areas of north western Crete and the Rodopos peninsula.  I have been able to identify well over 100 of the approximately xxx flowers presented in the book during that period without serious difficulty and am still adding to those numbers as time permits.  In a few cases the flower colour used in the book has proved difficult and not really good compared with reality here.  In a few cases I have had to resort to other works, notably Sfikas or sometimes even Polunin to confirm a flower identification.

It is a pleasure to use; difficult to damage; easy to read and has the common names of each plant in large type on each entry. The Latin names of family and individual plant are given in narrow bars - not unlike internet links - over the top of each entry, whilst a similar bar at the bottom gives the growth habit; for example annual or perennial; height - both metric and imperial; and the flowering time.  All the bars are colour coded so that one quickly becomes familiar with the location of information.  Especially useful on cold, windy days.

The pictures are difficult to describe - apart from saying that most are excellent. They are presented without background, almost as if they have been cut from original photographs and pasted onto a plain background.  Although this is not the way you will find most plants in the wild, at least not in north western Crete, it certainly makes it easier to decide what the plant you have just found is than viewing against their natural backgrounds.  Excellent.  Teaching at it's best, and learning becomes a pleasure!  Even the experts among us will value the clarity of presentation.  There are a few exceptions, but only a few.

There is a compact Glossary of 60 terms which complements some of the introductions, and the contents page - three main goups - conifers (very short); Dicotyledons (75 family groups); and Monocotyledons 9 families is later expended in the index (and the book itself) into around 1500/1600 entries - all with superb pictorial entries.  To my mind this one of the very best books on this particular topics.  As concise as possible but all encompassing - almost.

So how does it compare with other similar works?  Well, I haven't read them all but I can tell you that it compares very, very well.  It doesn't quite make me give up my 'Wild Flowers of Crete' by George Sfikas (Pub: Efstathiasdis), and that latter does not replace my copy of 'Flowers of Greece and the Balkans' by Oleg Polunin, which for many people is the bible - but everyone - beginner to expert, will appreciate Burnie's superbly presented book - the colour illustrations beat both the others hand down.

Do I own one?  You may have gathered that I certainly do - and it was not a free gift from the publisher.  Do I use it?  I certainly do, and it is so well constructed that I may never have to buy another!

A bit of advice - if you don't already own one get one now.  Add Sfikas and Polunin. Use them all, you won't regret it. Ever...

Will it fit in your pocket - yes, a countryside clothes pocket.  Will it wear a hole in it?  Maybe - in about 10 years or so.  Maybe. Can you pull it out and consult it on a windy day?  No reason why not.  But we haven't tested it in a force 9 Beaufort.  In the rain?  Well, it is a book, not a wellie, But I think that it is robust enough to take a few spots - the cover definitely will.  If I lose it will I get it back?  Er,well, yes and no, depends who finds it.  If it is a Cretan, or priest on a Sunday who already has his own copy, probably yes.  Anyone else, especially if they are enthusiasts and do not have a copy - probably not.  Buy another - maybe put your name and address in it this time - it is worth it!

Wilf B. Cretanvista/s.