Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2007 | Reviews

Orchids in Your Pocket: A Guide to Native Orchids of Iowa by Bill Witt

By Shelbi Thomas

Ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius deemed orchids the most noble of flora. Medieval Europeans believed in their aphrodisiac powers. Now, in a new nature guide, modern Midwesterners can see for themselves why orchids have maintained their mystique across time and culture.

Orchids in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Native Orchids of Iowa by Bill Witt offers a rare look at the 31 varieties, plus two hybrids, that grow in the Hawkeye State. Like other laminated, foldout books published by the University of Iowa Press, this one is best enjoyed on a stroll or hike.

The guide's full-color photographs reveal what make orchids so alluring-their striking diversity, delicacy, and beauty. The nodding pogonia, showy lady's slipper, and woodland twayblade are among the dozens of specimens of various sizes and shapes that make a splash across the page in dazzling whites, purples, yellows, and pinks. Each entry contains the orchid's common and scientific names, height, blooming season, habitat, and its endangered status.

Some of the featured orchids exist now in only a few places, while others likely have vanished from Iowa's grassy plains and woodlands. All will rouse an appreciation for prairies past and an interest in preserving the fragile flora for the future.