Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Baja plant guide earns book honors

Baja plant guide earns book honors
By Deborah Sullivan Brennan Aug. 24, 2013

Jon Rebman, curator of botany for the San Diego Museum of Natural History, with the award-winning third edition of the Baja plant guide. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Natural History

The San Diego Natural History Museum's guide to Baja California flora racked up book awards this summer for its encyclopedic treatment of plants south of the border.

The third edition of the Baja California Plant Field Guide, authored by Jon Rebman, the museum's curator of botany, received a gold award for the reference category in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. It also pulled in honors for design, reference, travel and local interest in various other publishing contests.

The guide, published last year, updates the original volumes released by San Diego naturalist Norman Roberts, substantially expanding the number and diversity of plants covered. The book describes over 715 species - nearly twice the amount of the original volume - Rebman said.

The original volume offered an intimately curated selection of Baja flora, driven largely by Roberts fascination with the region.

"Some plants were chosen simply because we like them," the introduction states. "Other plants were omitted solely because we dislike them."

While Rebman retained that language from earlier editions, he added a more diverse selection of plants in order to convey the breadth of Baja's botany.

For instance, he added entries on unglamorous but important plants such as grasses. But he also maintained descriptions of exceptional specimens, such as Thurber Pilostyles, a little known parasitic plant that grows exclusively within the stem of host plants. Or the 70-foot tall Cardon Cactus, which forms forests of towering succulents.

The book will benefit travelers, Rebman said, but also those who wish to get a better grasp of botany at home; about half the plants in Baja also grow in San Diego.

"I've told a lot of the natural history stories, so people get an awareness and appreciation of plants around them," Rebman said.

With 60 percent of proceeds going back to the museum's botany department, the book's sales also help cultivate understanding of Baja's flora.

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