Current or general favorite field guides?

I didn’t see it mentioned yet, so here goes: Jepson eflora and the associated tome is pretty much equivalent to the bible for California plants. Sometimes the taxonomy doesn’t follow iNaturalist identically, due to name changes, which has annoyed a few members of the California Native Plant Society Facebook group when I post iNaturalist names. For field guides, California is so botanically diverse, that regional guides are a must. For western Riverside County, I use Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains by Robert L. Allen and Fred M. Roberts, Jr and Flora of the Santa Ana River and Environs: With References to World Botany by Oscar F. Clarke, Danielle Svehla, Greg Ballmer, and Arlee Montalvo, although the second is a bit out of date in terms of taxonomic changes.


Does anyone have good field guides for intertidal organisms, specifically in the US around Florida? I like being able to ID inverts I find at and around the beach.

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I don’t know about FL, but I came across this one time when I was trying to ID stuff on the TX coast, and I thought it was super useful:


Thanks for the tip! I’ll add it to my collection of electronic resources.

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Its not something you can carry around, but for North American insects

The author has done several other really good ones on Coleoptera and Diptera

Online stuff the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification has about 20 good sections here

I did not see Dennis Paulson’s 2 volumes on North America odonates (link is for the eastern one) Only caveat to this is I prefer the ebook version, like too many printed books these days, the paper copy seems poorly made and prone to falling apart.

I will 2nd Reuven’s adding of the ROM Field Guide to the Butterflies of Ontario. Despite the name, this is good for anyone in the northeast, as it contains every butterfly species ever seen in Ontario (with 1 exception added since the book was published, which oddly was not even in the list they have of the species they most expected to be the next first timers in the province), and as the province is so big, it covers a broad diversity of just about every habitat in the northeast of the continent. This one is the best field guide I have in my mind.


Anything by Mark Elbroch. Especially mammal tracks and sign, bird tracks and sign, and skulls of North America. The general natural history info (beyond the specific identification info) is phenomenal. Beyond a plant guide for your region, these are the best partners you can have with you along for a walk in the woods.


The following guides are for insects only. I rely on 6-8 different bird guides and separate ones for mammals/plants/trees, etc.

I really want to give a shout out and enthusiastic thumbs up for the first two books, relatively unknown to many:

Desert Insects & Kin of Southern California, A Photographic Survey & Natural History Anza-Borrego Desert State Park , by Lynn and Gene Monroe is outstanding and applicable to a much broader area. I even find it useful in the Colorado Front Range.

Also by the Monroes:

Butterflies & Their Favorite Flowering Plants, Anza-Borrego State Park and Environs*
one of the few books available in the States that shows food plants and often the matching caterpillars.

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, by Ken Kaufman and Eric Eaton,
amazing how many gems of interesting information are packed into this modestly sized tome. Using this, I can almost always get an insect to Genus. Kudos!

The BEES in you Backyard , Wilson and Messinger Carril, a great overview of the many Families that make up this diverse assemblage.

Moths of North America , by Powell and Opler The most comprehensive book on western moths.

Bumble Bees, by Williams, Thorp, Richardson, Colla. I was amazed at the variation to be found within the same species.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West , Paulson The standard for Odonata

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Rocky Mountains , by DuBois. Useful regional guide.

A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America , by Jeffrey Glassberg Even though the names of the butterflies are in too small print, it has a lot more information, particularly on larval food plants and variation within species.


Just want to reiterate a gracious thanks to you all for contributing here! This is great, keep it up :+1:


Speaking of amazing field guides that you can’t carry around: Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodo, Stephen Sharnoff, and Sylvia Duran Sharnoff is absolutely amazing.


Before starting formal academic training, I taught myself basic botany by toting the 4 volumes of Abrams & Ferris’s (1923-1960) Flora of the Pacific States around the desert in a day pack, and making liberal use of the line illustrations (every species!), which remain some of the finest available for U.S. western plants. So, maybe not the most portable, but it happened, so qualifies as a “field guide” to me.

Even less portable, but in my biased opinion the finest flora of modern times, is the 9-part Intermountain Flora series, which covers the Great Basin plus all of Utah, with exquisite full-size line drawings of every taxon, and extensive descriptions and discussion. I have taken it with me to the field for sure (and it shows on the bindings), but haven’t put them all on my back, so quasi-field guide at most.


I ordered this after I read your comment. Just came in today!


Good Morning,
Could anyone suggest a field guide book to insects?

This one seems to be good - 5 stars:

It would help if you shared the geographic location you want to cover, from your profile it looks like Florida?

The challenge with insects is they are so broad and numerous that a complete field guide to insects would not be possible. My goal is always to try and get to the family or area and then use more specialized online resources to go deeper.

Professionals may scoff but I often start with a quick look in the Kaufman Field Guide to the Insects of North America to narrow down. A 2nd one I use is Stephen Marshall’s Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity, which is a big almost coffee table style book that is wonderfully illustrated.

Once I think I know the family, I will flip to BugGuide and do a iNat observation search for that family and where I saw it to drill down…


A newer book that is a great source for praying mantis ID in the US is Praying Mantises of the United States and Canada by Kris Anderson. A bit big to bring into the field but it has all the info you could ever need on praying mantis ID and general behavior.


I enjoy nice field guides almost as much as going out into the field and really admire the accomplishments of the authors in combining art and utility. Many of the guides already described above are among my favorites, but two of my favorites not mentioned yet are:
San Diego County Native Plants by James Lightner - locally comprehensive and compact with a knack for highlighting key distinguishing characteristics between species. Those are rare features among plant field guides in the Western USA - Newcombe’s guide manages this in the Northeastern USA.
Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates by Charley Eisenman and Noah Charney - this one unlocks the IDs on a whole segment of the natural world that was previously a mystery to me (weird things growing on plants, etc), and is particularly useful as it is organized by features and not taxonomic group. I’m hoping for a similar treatment of fungal/microbial plant pathogens.


So many great resources here… my bookmarks and wishlists both are growing! :D

As an outdoor/nature educator in the midst of naturalist studies of my own, my interests are currently broad but ever-deepening, as is my field guide collection. I especially like these, many of which are regionally specific (Oklahoma/Midwest):

Also Forest Trees of Oklahoma which I’ve always just used online via our Forestry Dept, but it looks like they’ve removed it so I’ll have to get myself a hard copy.

Many of those mentioned in this thread are in my overall collection, too:

I love all the Golden Guides for their beautiful illustrations & lightweight portability! They tend to be the first looked through by youth in outdoor programs I run, and I think Seashells may have been one of the first I picked up even though we’re landlocked here in Oklahoma (found it at a library booksale) :)

Anything by Mark Elbroch. Especially mammal tracks and sign, bird tracks and sign, and skulls of North America.

@thompsonmark23 I’ve referenced Mammal Tracks several times this week and didn’t realize there was a skull-specific one too, thank you!


austinsmith: “Does anyone have good field guides for intertidal organisms, specifically in the US around Florida? I like being able to ID inverts I find at and around the beach.”

Blair and Dawn Witherington’s “Florida’ s Living Beaches” is an excellent book in many ways. Of course it doesn’t have every invertebrate in it, and it has a lot of other things too, but it has a heck of a lot of stuff and is easy to use.


Does anyone now of any good field guides for plants in the Northeastern US ?(I live in Ohio)

For wildflowers of the eastern US, I really like Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. You have to learn to use the key system, but it is time well spent. Published in 1977, it is still in print. (Note that one commonly-seen edition has California wildflowers on the cover–do not be fooled, it is for the NE US.)