Thousands of people visit Manitoba each year to experience special wild places and to see the remarkable plants and animals. Among the spectacular wildflowers are 36 wild orchids. The province has the largest and most impressive populations of the Western Prairie Fringed-orchid left in the world. Manitoba may be one of the places in the North America that is most visited by the many thousands who have wild orchids as a hobby. It is also becoming more popular with the millions of people who travel to experience wildlife with binoculars and cameras. Although wild orchids are enjoyed by increasing numbers of people living in Manitoba, they also make Manitoba a destination!
Native wild orchids are obviously important and a good book about them is worthwhile. This is it - but it is a great book! A book about 36 orchids with 217 photographs! If a photograph is worth a thousand words, this is also a big book! Each of the 36 species is accompanied by 2 to 4 colour photographs as well as a half page of text with description, habitat, abundance, identification aids and comments as well as a distribution map. The species groups are also introduced with photographs and text. The layout is simple but attractive and easy to use. The photographs are exceptional in quality. The authors have illustrated colour variations and have shown flowers in various stages. Several photos show insects on the flowers and there are many photographs of habitats in a section dealing with that subject. One can learn a great deal about Manitoba orchids by just looking at the photographs. This book will be applauded by both residents and visitors.
Being the first comprehensive work on the orchids of Manitoba, it will go far beyond simply providing enjoyment. It will educate, stimulate interest in science, and assist field biologists and landscape managers. Protection is a major theme both at the start and at the end and there can be little doubt that conservation will be significantly promoted. Orchids were the first group of Canadian plants to be selected for monitoring of the general status of environment and biodiversity in Canada. This monitoring follows the "Accord for the Protecton of Species at Risk" an agreement between provincial/territorial and federal governments with the goal of preventing species in Canada from becoming extinct or extirpated because of human impact. The parties are committed to "monitor, assess and report regularly on the status of all wild species." What could be more useful to help with monitoring orchids in Manitoba?
Many states and provinces have impressive and comprehensive books about their native orchids. You do not have to go far for examples. Crossing over the southeastern border into Minnesota one has the very fine "Orchids of Minnesota" by Welby Smith. Manitoba was without this kind of coverage but has now caught up! Here we have one of the best orchid guides in North America, a blend of excellence, accuracy and quality, thanks to an outstanding team: Doris Ames, Peggy Bainard Acheson, Lorne Heshka, Bob Joyce, John Neufeld, Richard Reeves, Eugene Reimer and Ian Ward.
We value information, but this book is not only accurate and authoritative, it is also a key to the natural world. It is like being there. The authors have brought their enthusiasm to the reader. Promoting the enjoyment of nature is a contribution to the mental well-being of humans - a greatly underrated medicine. Orchids are more than orchids and this is more than an orchid book!
Paul M. Catling, Ottawa, 29 May 2005