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Since 1987

Spring Wildflowers at RPI Tech Park

Date: Saturday, May 18, 2019 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Naturalist Series

Part of our Rensselaer Naturalist Series co-sponsored by Rensselaer Land Trust and Rensselaer Plateau Alliance.


All are welcome.

May is the month for spring wildflowers to bloom, and the woods, fields, and ravines behind the Rensselaer Technology Park provide good habitat. Tom Phillips, local botanist, will help us find and identify the area’s wide variety of spring flowers. We will walk about three to four miles along the Tech Park’s trails, with moderate ascents and descents, and some muddy spots.

Meet at the Rensselaer Tech Park, taking Jordan Rd. off Rt. 4, turn left on Stone Clay Rd. and then quick left into parking area just below Children’s Museum.

Register in advance HERE


Contact Tom Phillips by e-mail. Suggested donation of $5.

Resources for this outing are listed below and can also be found here along with learning goals.



Many entries are from An Annotated Bibliography of Identification and Natural History of New York Native Plants, by Steve Young, New York Natural Heritage Program


Field Guides

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Little, Brown and Company. 
This is the most useful illustrated field guide for identifying wildflowers in New York. It has a very easy-to-use key which uses flower structure and leaf arrangement. Since plants are arranged by flower structure many similar plants are illustrated together, which facilitates identification. It includes many obscure wildflowers that are usually not illustrated in other field guides. Since it uses illustrations instead of photographs the important identification characters are easier to distinguish.

Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North Central North America. Peterson. Roger Tory and Margaret McKenny. 1968. Houghton Mifflin. 
This is probably the second-most useful field guide after Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and they can often be used together. The illustrations are very useful, especially with the small arrows pointing out identification characters. It’s one drawback is arrangement by flower color which is less useful then by flower structure.

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern States. Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. 
This is a very useful wildflower guide based on flower color and using photos to show the plants. There is often more than one photo per plant and it is one of the few guides that has distribution maps for the plants. 

Wildflowers of New York in Color. Chapman, William K. et al. 1998.
A photographic field guide of the more common and showy wildflowers encountered in NY. The photographs are beautiful but the descriptions are fairly short with only general habitat information. It is arranged by flower color, flower structure and leaf arrangement.

General Information and Natural History

Wildflowers along the Way. Brown, Margaret and Marguerite Wellborn. 1989. Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady, Niskayuna, New York.
This is a small but information-packed booklet about the natural and cultural history of the most common wildflowers in the Capital District, arranged by season. There are very nice line drawings by Clem Habetler.

Trailside Notes. The Naturalist’s Companion to Adirondack Plants. Schottman, Ruth. 1998. The Adirondack Mountain Club.
This book provides an interesting look at the natural history of our most common and conspicuous wildflowers (including many found in Rensselaer County). There is a mix of science, lore, edibility and etymology and humor written in a conversational style. Over half of the book is devoted to our spring ephemerals.

A Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers. Stokes, Donald and Lillian. 1984. Little Brown and Co.
This book tells how to watch many common wildflowers throughout the year, with information on flower structure and pollinators, and on natural history.

The Naturalist's Guide to Field Plants: An Ecology for Eastern North America. 2004.
The Naturalist's Guide to Forest Plants: An Ecology for Eastern North America. 2003. 
Both by Cox, Donald D. Syracuse University Press.
The books in this series contain interesting and useful information on the natural history and ecology of plant communities in our area. In addition to a sampling of the plants and animals each book has a section on naming and collecting plants and activities to do.

Wildflowers of the Northeast. Anna and Spider Barbour. 1991. The Overlook Press.
Beautiful photographs and informative text in this coffee-table book connect scientific facts about the Northeast’s natural history with what a person can witness by going out to the woods or fields or swamps.

Winter Wildflower Field Guides

A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter. Levine, Carol. 1995. Yale University Press. 
This is the best book for identifying wildflowers in the winter. There are very detailed drawings of many species with excellent descriptions. Many graminoids are included and there is even a section with photographs of basal leaves that is very useful.

Weeds in Winter. Brown, Lauren. 1976. W. W. Norton & Co. 
A very useful guide to wildflowers (they are not all weeds) in the winter. There is a detailed key, very nice drawings and useful descriptions and natural history information.

Winter Weed Finder. Finder Field Guides. Nature Study Guild. Berkeley, California. 
One of a series of handy little pocket kinds that are basically easy-to-use keys to the species.

Guides to Specific Groups

Orchids of New England and New York. Nelson, Tom and Eric Lamont. 2012. Kollath and Stensaas Publishing, Duluth, MN. 
This is a handy field guide to all 65 of our subtle to stunning Northeastern Orchids. It is a handy size for the field, has great photos, descriptions and range maps and even mentions look-alikes and how to distinguish them. Another great feature is the photos of fruits and inflorescences in the front of the book.

Field Guide to Orchids of North America. Williams, John G. and Andrew E. Williams. 1983. 
This is a nice small field guide with beautiful full-color illustrations, keys and detailed descriptions. It is a very useful guide for distinguishing orchids in New York and includes a glossary of botanical terms for orchids.

Trilliums. Case, Frederick W. Jr. and Roberta B. Case. 1997. Timber Press. 
This is the most detailed and complete information written about our native trilliums. There is a key to all the trilliums and beautiful photographs and range maps of each species. Here you will find information on horticultural varieties not found elsewhere.


Go Botany. Native Plant Trust
Want to know what that plant is? With our Simple Key, you can identify over 1,200 common native and naturalized New England plants! Almost all Rensselaer County plants are included.

New York Flora Atlas. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY. 
This is the current comprehensive online atlas to the plants of New York. It contains county maps along with photos and information on natural history and taxonomy as well as a list of specimens for each species. There are links to other online resources for each species.

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