This is an annotated list of some of my favorite natural history resources, with a focus on Indiana. The vast array of life forms and interesting places described in these works might make a person wish for several lifetimes, just to study and explore them all. In the meantime, new work keeps appearing, and no doubt I’ve missed many notable contributions, but I recommend anything that appears below. All are worthy additions to an Indiana naturalist’s toolkit. I do not receive any compensation for linking to bookshop.org or Amazon; those links are provided entirely for your convenience.
ACRES Land Trust operates mostly in northeastern Indiana. ACRES publishes The ACRES Quarterly, a small format, full color newsletter that covers their latest doings, upcoming events, property profiles, and often historical information about past acquisitions. Their website, at acreslandtrust.org, is a treasure trove of maps and information about their properties. Also available is the ACRES Land Trust Preserve Guide, (revised periodically) which contains profiles, driving directions, and maps of many of their preserves, arranged by county.
Belth, Jeffrey E. 2013. Butterflies of Indiana: A Field Guide. ISBN 9780253009555. Wow. Profusely illustrated species accounts with flight periods, range maps, identifying characteristics, and relevant discussion, topped off with plenty of general information on butterflies and Indiana natural history. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Bloom, Phil. 2010. Hiking Indiana: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures (2nd Edition). ISBN 978-0-7627-38434. Provides background information and very detailed descriptions of more than 70 hikes all over the state. Includes maps, mileages, difficulty ratings, and more. (First edition 2000) [Amazon]
Central Indiana Land Trust operates out of Indianapolis. They produce a colorful newsletter and publish A Guide to the Preserves of Central Indiana Land Trust. Their website is at conservingindiana.org.
Cobb, Boughton. 1963. A Field Guide to the Ferns. ISBN 0395194318. The focus here is on the northeastern U.S., but most Indiana species receive generous space and excellent line drawings. [Amazon]
Cummings, Kevin S., and Christine A. Mayer. 1992. Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest. ISBN 1882932005. A small but intriguing volume. Each species gets two pages – one of descriptive text, facing a second with one or more color photos and a range map. [Amazon]
Curry, James R. 2001. Dragonflies of Indiana. ISBN 1883362113. Profusely illustrated with gorgeous color photographs and range maps, this volume also includes in-depth treatment of many species, with Indiana-specific details not readily available anywhere else. My only wish is that it also included the damselflies. For those, see Paulson (2011). [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Daniel, Glenda. 1984. Dune Country. ISBN 080400854X. A charming book illustrated with first-rate line drawings by Carol Lerner. Covers the geology, ecosystems, and recreational opportunities found in the Indiana dunelands region. [Amazon]
Davis, Mary Byrd. 1996. Old Growth in the East. ISBN 0963840207. A fascinating inventory of (mostly) remnant old growth woods east of the Great Plains. Indiana’s listings occupy about four of the book’s 130 or so pages. [Amazon]
Deam, Charles C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. ISBN 1930665598. Deam’s masterwork, running to 1,236 pages. Deam botanized in all 1,008 townships of Indiana and examined the collections of numerous herbaria before producing this astounding book. There are keys to the state’s plants, species descriptions, and maps showing where Deam and others collected specimens of each species. Available in (expensive) reprint editions; but worth it – this volume beggars description. [Amazon]
DeLorme. Indiana Atlas and Gazetteer. 1998. I wish this atlas received more frequent updates, but as there’s nothing else remotely like it, it goes along with me on all my trips in search of Indiana’s wild areas.
Eastman, John. Eastman’s books, superbly illustrated by Amelia Hansen, don’t pretend to describe every species you’re likely to encounter in the habitat types they cover. Instead, these volumes dig deep, providing fascinating details on many of the most common, significant, and/or interesting species. I know of three:
The Book of Forest and Thicket (1992)ISBN 0811730468. [Amazon]
The Book of Swamp and Bog (1995) ISBN 0811725189. [Amazon]
The Book of Field and Roadside (2003) ISBN 0811726258. [Amazon]
Hallowell, Anne C. and Barbara G. Hallowell. 1981. Fern Finder. A tiny but ingenious booklet that shows how to identify fern species in the northeastern United States. A bargain too; my copy cost $3 brand new. ISBN 0-912550-11-2. [Amazon]
Higgs, Steven. 2016. A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana (ISBN 978-0-253-02090-1) and A Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana (ISBN 978-0253039217). The author’s color photographs complement property descriptions and other information needed to find and enjoy the destinations he covers. [Northern: Bookshop.org or Amazon; Southern: Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Homoya, Michael A. 2012. Wildflowers and Ferns of Indiana Forests. ISBN 978-0-253-22325-8. A marvelous book loaded with interesting facts and outstanding color photos. Includes many trees in addition to wildflowers and ferns. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Homoya, Michael A. 1993. Orchids of Indiana. ISBN 0253328640. Highly detailed accounts of the more than forty species of orchids found in Indiana, along with amazing color photographs and a wealth of background material. [Amazon]
Indiana Department of Natural Resources. DNR publishes a vast array of pamphlets that describe our state parks, forests, reservoirs, fish and wildlife areas, and many nature preserves and trails. Their bimonthly glossy magazine Outdoor Indiana covers a wide variety of topics related to the mission of the Department. They formerly published Indiana’s Dedicated Nature Preserves; the last print edition appeared in 2004 – grab it if you can find it. Otherwise, updated descriptions of natural properties around the state are at https://www.in.gov/dnr/.
Jackson, Marion T. 2004. 101 Trees of Indiana. ISBN 025321694X. Extensive descriptions and many color photos for each of 101 tree species native to Indiana. Jackson also includes information on numerous shrubs and introduced species. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Jackson, Marion T. (editor). 1997. The Natural Heritage of Indiana. ISBN 0253330742. This massive volume contains more than fifty chapters on all aspects of Indiana nature, many written by leading figures of our Indiana scientific community. Loaded with history, quotes, facts, and color photographs. [Amazon]
Ladd, Doug. 2005. Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers, 2nd Edition. ISBN 9780762737444. Marvelous color photos of many species found in the tallgrass prairie region, each accompanied by short but informative descriptions. [Amazon]
Lellinger, David B. 1985. A Field Manual of the Ferns & Fern-Allies of the United States & Canada. ISBN 0874746035. This volume won’t fit in your pocket, but it is authoritative and comprehensive, covering and illustrating more than 400 species of ferns and fern allies that occur in the U.S. and Canada. My go-to fern reference. [Amazon]
Lindsey, A.A., D.V. Schmelz, and S.A. Nichols. 1970 (Reprint Edition). Natural Areas in Indiana and Their Preservation. This is the earliest thorough survey of Indiana’s natural areas and was a truly groundbreaking effort. A half century later, some of the places it describes are long gone, but many old friends remain. [Amazon]
McPherson, Alan. Alan McPherson deserves special mention for his incredible work in making information about the natural areas of Indiana available to the public. I have no idea how he managed to learn about, find, and explore so many places, then produce a series of exhaustively thorough books detailing what he found. We are all richer for his work.
Nature Walks in Southern Indiana. 1991. ISBN 0962846902. [Amazon]
Nature Walks in Northern Indiana. 1996. ISBN 0962846910. [Amazon]
Indiana Best Hikes. 2001. ISBN 0967292212. [Amazon]
Nature Walks in Southern Indiana, 2nd Edition. 2002. ISBN 0967292220.
Minton, Sherman A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians & Reptiles of Indiana. ISBN 1883362105. The son of a U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice, Minton Jr. led a remarkable and accomplished life of his own – medical doctor, World War II veteran, professor, and scientist. This impressive volume features color photographs (many by the author), range maps, and detailed species accounts. [Amazon]
Nature Conservancy. This national organization is very active in Indiana. The Kankakee Sands project is but one part of their amazing portfolio. For more information on what they’re up to, see their web site at http://www.nature.org and The Nature Conservancy’s Guide to Indiana Preserves. 2006. ISBN 0253218594. [Guide to Nature Preserves: Amazon]
Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. ISBN 0316604429. A marvelous and handy book that uses a simple key system – easier than it may sound – to separate more than 1,300 species of wildflowers found in the northeastern U.S. Copiously illustrated with line drawings, occasionally in color. Despite some tough competition, my favorite wildflower guide. [Amazon]
NICHES Land Trust operates in a multi-county territory centered around Lafayette. They produce a colorful quarterly newsletter that describes upcoming events and usually highlights one or more preserves, often including profiles of some of the life found therein. Find them online at nicheslandtrust.org.
Paulson, Dennis. 2011. Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. Curry (see above) is specific to Indiana, but Paulson includes damselflies, which Curry does not. Color photos, range maps, and detailed species accounts for 300+ species that occur east of the Mississippi; well over a hundred are here in Indiana. ISBN 9780691122830. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Schorger, A. W. 1955; reprinted 1973. The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. ISBN 080611035X. An absolutely exhaustive treatment of the passenger pigeon. Schorger tracked down countless contemporary newspaper accounts that substantially enrich the story he tells of this remarkable species and its ultimate demise. [Amazon]
Scott, James A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America, A Natural History and Field Guide. ISBN 0804720134. My father was an insect taxonomist, and I fondly remember pitting my “lumper” arguments against his far better informed “splitter” tendencies. Whatever the merits of those perspectives, I find many of the differences said to exist between butterfly species minor indeed. No matter. They’re all here, described and illustrated in this first-rate book, along with many pages describing various aspects of butterfly natural history. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Shirley Heinze Land Trust owns more than twenty preserves in four northwest Indiana counties; many are open to the public. Learn more at heinzetrust.org, which has a downloadable preserve guide. They also published The Indiana Dunes Story (ISBN 0-9659358-1-7).
Sycamore Land Trust. Sycamore has properties in many southern Indiana counties. They produce a preserve guide and a thrice-yearly newsletter. Their website is at sycamorelandtrust.org
Wallman, Norma Bangel. 2013. Wildflowers of Holliday Park. ISBN 9780615883199. A hyperlocal guide to the wildflowers of a well-known Indianapolis park. Hundreds of species, arranged by blooming season, two to a page, with beautiful photographs and the personal touch of an author who obviously knows and loves her subjects.
Whitaker, John O. Jr. and Charles J. Amlaner, Jr. (Editors). 2012. Habitats and Ecological Communities of Indiana: Presettlement to Present. ISBN 978-0-253-35602-4. Detailed descriptions of habitat types found in Indiana, copiously illustrated with color photographs and supported by appendices that list soil types and species found in Indiana, either presently or in the past. [Bookshop.org or Amazon]
Yatskievych, Kay. 2000. Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers. ISBN 0253214203. A very thorough guide; lists 1,500+ species found in Indiana and includes more than 600 color photographs. Start with the Flower Finder in front, which will direct you to the more detailed listings that appear later in the book. [Amazon]