Retired biology professor publishes pocket-sized guide to Steamboat wildflowers | SteamboatToday.com

Retired biology professor publishes pocket-sized guide to Steamboat wildflowers

— When author Teresa Audesirk set out three years ago on foot and on horseback to collect photographs for a new wildflower field guide to the Steamboat area, she made sure to take note of some of the humbler blossoms in the Yampa Valley and surrounding mountains. She even published photos of some noxious weeds that happen to flower. But those plants, like spotted knapweed, are clearly labeled with an extreme frowny face in the book, "Blooms 'Round the Boat.”

The book is destined to become a hiking companion for many outdoor lovers who often find themselves asking, "Is that Alpine pussytoes or American Bistort?"

Audesirk is not a botanist, but she is a retired professor of biology at the University of Colorado Denver. And with her husband, Gerry (he copy-edited the wildflower book), she authored a well used introductory biology textbook for college students. So it's no surprise that she takes note of local flora on her outings. But all too often, she found she was unable to identify the flowers she saw on her hikes in any one of several wildflower books.

"I think it's very tempting for field guide authors to try to cover a large area like the entire Rocky Mountains," Audesirk said. "With the size of their books limited, they end up getting the most spectacular flowers."

Audesirk found the blossoms for her book within about 30 miles of Steamboat.

She also found room for a non-native plant you've probably seen near your home or a nearby vacant lot and weren't able to identify – sweet clover. The spindly stems grow to be several feet tall, and the tiny yellow flowers resemble pea flowers, Audesirk writes. Brought to the U.S. for livestock feed, the plant is foraged by both bears and mule deer. Although it's from Eurasia, it's not branded as an invasive species, she said.

The book is packed with the author's own photographs, most of them taken in the field against a dark brown cloth, to make them stand out. Audesirk is a good photographer and took care to catch the leaves of each plant in her images.

"I started out just taking wildflower photos because I thought they were gorgeous," she said. "When I got serious, I targeted photos of the leaves in my photos and went home to look them up. I did sometimes get frustrated because two or three different flowers can sometimes look identical, but the leaves varied a lot."

The book was beautifully printed in Steamboat Springs by Carrie Wettlaufer of Element Print and Design. She and her staff captured the subtle colorations of the blossoms. The book is organized by those colors, easily picked out by color tabs at the top right corner of the page. The 172-page volume is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, and the spiral binding means the pages fall open and stay open.

It was relatively costly to produce because of the many photographs it contains – sometimes up to four per page. It is available for $19.99 at Off the Beaten Path and coming soon to the Tread of Pioneers Museum store.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1