A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians
by Robert E Swanson.
illustrated by Frances R. Swanson
1994, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
This book was first printed 25 years ago, but it still works wonders. Unlike many photographic field guides, the Swansons’ guide opens with a full glossary of terms. The next section presents the naturalist reader with dichotomous keys. After the seventy pages of keys, the third section of the book breaks down into clear one -to - three paragraph descriptions of the species, and a concise drawing of the bark, branch structures, buds, leaves, and fruit.
Some more modern field guides use photos, which are pretty, but when looking for important defining characteristics in plant identification, photos can be unclear and create confusion. On the other hand, a good botanical line drawing will distill botanical forms, the connections and relationships between the little bits, parts, and organs of the plant.