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Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin

by Dan Dourson and Judy Dourson

Availablepaperback$39.95s 978-1-94-966900-8
488 pages  Pubdate: 05/17/2019  6 x 9  815 color photos, 1 map, 68 line drawings, 8 figures

The Red River Gorge’s intricate canyon system features an abundance of high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges, making it one of the world’s top rock-climbing destinations. The Gorge, known for its unspoiled scenic beauty and numerous hiking trails, is one of Kentucky’s most popular natural destinations, attracting over 500,000 visitors a year. While books about hiking, climbing, and other recreational activities in the area are readily available, Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge is the first book specifically devoted to the biodiversity of the Gorge and its watershed.

Authors Dan and Judy Dourson introduce the geology and cultural history of the gorge but focus on the incredible diversity of both common and rare flora of this unique ecosystem. With over 1,000 color images and numerous illustrations covering over 1,500 species currently known to exist in the watershed, Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge is designed to be accessible to the casual hiker and of use to the seasoned naturalist. Rare and endangered species are highlighted as well as a few other important, but often ignored, non-flowering plant groups, including green algae, fungi, slime molds, lichens, and mosses. In addition, a small section on flowering woody vines, shrubs, and trees is included, making the book the most comprehensive natural guide to one of Kentucky’s most well-known natural recreational areas.

Dan Dourson is a wildlife biologist who worked with the US Forest Service specializing in nongame management in Red River Gorge. He is the author of ten books, including Wild Yet Tasty: A Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern Kentucky; Land Snails of Belize, Central America; and Land Snails of West Virginia.

Judy Dourson
is an educator, researcher, field technician, and editor. She has served as Dan’s field assistant, primary researcher, and editor and has coauthored several books with him, including Wild Yet Tasty: A Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern Kentucky.

There's a kind of strength and connection that comes from being able to name things. That's why I was pleased to get a copy of Dan and Judy Dourson's impressive new field guide from South Limestone Books, an imprint of University Press of Kentucky. Their guide...is a boon to anyone who enjoys hiking and spending time at the Gorge...First I have to comment on the sheer beauty of the book. The cover design by Hayward Wilkerson employs a vintage book photo, coupled with a flower sketch, that has the effect of making the guide look well worn and frequently consulted. Plus, the pale green and gold color scheme punctuates the classic nature theme...I could easily envision this guide as the source text for workshops and classes on the biodiversity of the area...Any plant enthusiast on a hike through Red River Gorge will want to have this book stashed in his or her backpack. As I paged through the beautiful photos and descriptions of this field guide, I was reminded of my sixth and seventh grade teacher...[who] gave us [summer] homework for science. We were charged with finding, pressing, and identifying as many leaves and wildflowers as we could find between May and August and placing them in a little field guide of our own making. About half of what I can know and name about plants in our area, I owe to that assignment. I agree with Dourson's assessment about nature when he says that, 'All life on Earth is the result of an astronomical number of chance encounters. Consequently, life is an extraordinary privilege, but life with consciousness is, without a doubt, the single greatest endowment, taking human existence to unparalleled levels of understanding' I believe that those levels of understanding to which Dourson refers begin with being able to name and cherish what lives around us.

https://www.wvxu.org/post/book-review-wildflowers-and-ferns-red-river-gorge-and-greater-red-river-basin

This is the first book specifically devoted to the biodiversity of the Gorge and its watershed. Authors Dan and Judy Dourson introduce the geology and cultural history of the gorge but focus on the incredible diversity of both common and rare flora of this unique ecosystem. With over 1000 color images and numerous illustrations, Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge is designed to be accessible to the casual hiker and of use to the seasoned naturalist...the book is the most comprehensive natural guide to one of Kentucky’s most well-known natural recreational areas. -- Northeastern Naturalist

In Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin, Dan and Judy Dourson provide an in-depth review of botanical diversity in this fascinating region of eastern Kentucky. With its stunning photography, interesting text, and clear explanations, this book will appeal to naturalists of all backgrounds. Beginners will enjoy identifying plants they’ve discovered. Experienced naturalists will appreciate coverage of little-known species, several of which are specialties of the Red River region. -- Robert Naczi, Curator of North American Botany, New York Botanical Garden

The most noteworthy feature of this book is the photography—the images are outstanding, even breathtaking, in their clarity and detail and, together with the line drawings, are among the best illustrations ever published on the flora of the eastern United States. With modern nomenclature and up-to-date information on the status of the plant life (as well as comments on fungi, lichens, algae, and mosses), this book is a most welcome addition to the literature on the flora of Kentucky. -- Ronald L. Jones, author of Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora

From state nature preserves to wild rivers to wilderness areas, the Red River watershed contains some of the most significant natural areas in Kentucky. The Doursons’ book is an invaluable resource for those interested in the native species that call this place home. -- Zeb Weese, Executive Director, Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves