Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist • 50(2): December 2018


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Even the most seasoned individual with a plant identification background can relate to the difficulty of identifying sedges and rushes to the species level. Historically, one has had to rely on dichotomous keys to identify a sedge or rush species in the field. After hours of frustration, a person ends up collecting the plant and, if lucky, bringing the collection back to a herbarium where it can be compared to known specimens. I have been collecting and identifying sedge and rush species for over 25 years, and author Welby Smith along with photographer Richard Haug have published what I believe will be considered one of the most usable field guides for sedge and rush identification in the upper Midwest.

I believe I should mention early in this review what makes this book such an amazing resource for field identification of sedges and rushes—the photography. The photography is of the highest quality I have ever seen! The array of photographs included with each species focuses on the characteristics that clearly differentiate one species from another. Each species usually has a photograph of the whole plant and sometimes the plant within its habitat. There are always photographs of the inflorescence and fruit, including perigynia or capsules and achenes or seeds. For example, the genus Carex includes photographs of the scale (sometimes the scale with the perigynium), the perigynium (usually dorsal and ventral views), and the achene, and in certain cases there are multiple photographs of each showing the changes in color during the season. Most of the photographs are of living plants and their parts, which is exactly what one would see in the field. Having pointed out this fact, it is mind-boggling how much time and effort that the people involved in the production of this book must have dedicated to putting this resource together. It had to be a passion or, at least, an obsession toward perfection.