The Urban Naturalist . . .
Most wildflower books, including field guides, emphasize the meadows and woods of parks and wilderness spaces. Examining the literature more broadly and digging deeper, books that cover general nature study sometimes cover topics closer to home. One example is The Urban Naturalist, authored by another writer with roots in New York: Steven D. Garber.
Dr. Garber was educated at Cornell, New York University, and Rutgers. He has authored numerous papers and several books during his long career in environmental science. The Urban Naturalist was first published in 1987 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Garber was at that time a wildlife biologist for the Port Authority of New York and the region’s three major airports. The book was reprinted in 1998 by Dover Publications, Inc. This is the edition I own and use.
Garber begins the book with an essay – “Urban Ecosystems” – that provides a valuable contribution to a less than fully understood facet of the environment. His thoughts illuminate subjects such as urban microclimates and invasive species. His prose style is informed by scientific writing and focuses on the subject matter, sans personal memoir. The chapters that follow are dedicated to different wildlife types: Grasses and Wildflowers; Trees; Insects and Other Invertebrates; Fish; Amphibians; Reptiles; Birds; and Mammals.
The chapter on wildflowers of course interested my own research the most. Garber’s selections are logical in the context of the urban environment and include Chicory, Mugwort, Plantain, Purslane, Clover, Purple Loosetrife, and Lamb’s Quarters. Line illustrations by Jerome Lo enhance the plant descriptions throughout.
The book concludes with an expansive bibliography of books divided by the chapter subjects. This alone makes The Urban Naturalist an excellent resource for, you guessed it, the urban naturalist.
Garber, Steven D., The Urban Naturalist, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY, 1998.
– rPs 02 25 2010