References: sources of information for guides

Click for database of tropical plant field guides.

Apart from the raw information in herbaria and the forest, field guide writers should be aware of the full spectrum of botanical information that has been published.

Field guide writers should always check published data about species against their own specimens and plants in the field. Because much field information is not physically available in herbaria, it is often copied and not checked independently, leading to more errors than with more standard botanical characters.


Existing field guides

Other field guides are useful for inspiration, when choosing style and content, and sources of specific information about particular groups of plants.

See the online bibliography which contains over 800 entries with comments, or a summary of the types that exist.


The 'newspapers' or periodicals of the scientific world, where information is published bit by bit, as it is discovered. All new species have to be published and described when they are first discovered, and most of these publications today are in a limited range of journals, each of which tends to specialise in plants from certain regions.

Many journals are published regularly by the large herbaria, such as:

» See e-journals and here for a fuller list of journals.



Review of taxonomic and other information for a given plant group.

American plants, to 1969.

Many botanical publications are listed by Harvard, Kew and other herbaria. The Kew bibliographic database, for instance, includes Kew Record, "a bibliography of over 200,000 publications published since 1971 and relating to the taxonomy of flowering plants, gymnosperms, and ferns".



For a definition of a Floras in the context of other publications, see here.

For anyone needing to identify plants in the tropics, the first stop for information has been the Guide to the Standard Floras of the World by David Frodin (Frodin, 2002: C.U.P.). It concentrates on floras, but also covers major checklists and identification guides, listing them by the major regions of the World (e.g. South America) and the component countries.

For a list of online Floras see e-Floras.

Links to other www resources

Useful general reference books for your shelves

  • Mabberley, D.J. The Plant Book. Cambridge University Press.
  • J.G. Harris & M.W. Harris. 2001. Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary
  • (More to add)
  • Onlinke bookshops: many botanical reference books and field guides can be bought through NHBS and Koeltz


WWW Virtual Field Herbarium

Copyright issues
Although there is no legal problem rephrasing, reinterpreting, repackaging published information, providing due credit is always given to the source, it is not usually legal to scan people's images and include them in your field guide without permission. It is legal to scan and resuse pictures more than 70 years after the author's death. This means there is an underutilised treasure trove of old, often beautiful illustrations in old monographs and early floras - for a list of examples.

Copyright and electronic images