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Big Bend Plants

Learn about the little wonders hidden in a vast landscape.

By E. Dan Klepper

On first glance, Roy Morey's Little Big Bend (Texas Tech University Press) appears to be a beautifully photographed treatise on the plant life of the state's vast desert landscape. But a closer look reveals something far more fascinating and functional. Morey's attention to "the near landscape" of Big Bend National Park, a preoccupation that has held his interest for years, has resulted in a remarkable and detailed visual essay on the small world inhabiting a very big landscape.

"Although I often hiked long distances and explored many remote corners of the park," says Morey of his forays into Big Bend National Park, "it was the little things right under my nose, at my feet, that provided startling evidence of the desert's bounty and intrigue."

Little Big Bend - An Introduction to the Common, Uncommon, and Rare Plants of Big Bend National Park is an accomplished amalgam of pictorial charm and informative text. It provides desert naturalists and fans of nature photography with over 300 pages of stunning close-ups, plant descriptions, taxonomy, etymology, natural history and phenology. The guide - and it is a field guide as much as a book of photography - covers 109 species of plants that are found exclusively in the Trans-Pecos, with 62 of them occurring only in the Big Bend region.

In addition, Morey has included a unique and enlightening set of appendices. The first charts the status of imperiled and vulnerable plants featured in the book, illustrating the sad state of botanical affairs for a region that any Texan with pride-of-place should want to preserve and protect. The second appendix, perhaps the most useful to plant enthusiasts, lists national park locations for each plant, pinpointing canyons, trails, springs and arroyos where a specific plant can be found. It's a terrific feature for Texans who wish to make an effort to see the plant firsthand. Morey also offers a generous appendix of tips for photographers wishing to shoot their own close-ups.

"I took pleasure, literally, in small things," explains Morey in his introduction. With Little Big Bend, Morey shows the rest of us how to as well.

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