Frustrating Flowers and Puzzling Plants

Identifying the difficult species of Britain and Ireland

  • Covers all the main difficult groups of Britain and Ireland in a clear, accessible style.
  • The tabular keys are much easier to use than conventional dichotomous keys.
  • Key diagnostic features are illustrated in simple, no-nonsense diagrams.

    • This well-illustrated, accessible field guide to the UK’s difficult plant groups is a joy to read and easy to use.
      —Dr Colin Clubbe, Senior Research Leader, Kew Gardens
    • botany
    • Coming Soon
    • flowers
    • plant ID
    • plant taxonomy
    • plants
    • wildflowers


    If you have tried to identify wildflowers, you'll already know exactly what is meant by the main title of this book. Although a lot of plants are relatively straightforward to recognise, many others are not. Standard wildflower books tend to provide as much guidance with identifying the easy and distinctive as they do with complex, tricky species. This ingenious book is designed to come to the rescue of the exasperated novice botanist and to help those more experienced who might be stuck on unfamiliar and complex groups.

    From willows to water-crowfoots, from eyebrights to dandelion look-a-likes, all of us have struggled with baffling specimens or the seemingly cryptic. Presented here is a fresh new approach to identifying difficult plants by giving you an understanding of the biology behind their complexity. In simple language, you will be directed to the particular parts of the plant that you need to look at most closely. The tabular keys are more user friendly and evolutionarily valid than conventional dichotomous keys, which are often confusing and unwieldy. Each chapter contains illustrations of the plants' key diagnostic features, rather than of entire plants. Other novel aspects include coverage of the historical recognition of complexity within each group, which is used to inform debate about the level of resolution that may be most appropriate for your needs.

    This accessible guide is the perfect chance to get to grips with that challenging group you keep saving for 'next year' or for untangling a botanical mystery which keeps repeating itself.

    DOI: 10.53061/QYEE4043


    • This well-illustrated, accessible field guide to the UK’s difficult plant groups is a joy to read and easy to use. The reasons behind the plants’ complexity are clearly explained and the use of tabular keys is an excellent tool which directs you quickly to the most reasonable identification of your plant challenge. This book will be appreciated by both casual and specialist botanists because of its clear, engaging, authoritative prose, focused detail and accurate illustrations.
      —Dr Colin Clubbe, Senior Research Leader, Kew Gardens
    • This hugely helpful book teases out the trickiest groups and adds the kind of nuanced detail on growth form, morphology and habitat that the ‘standard’ books can’t deliver. I’ll be using it in my own work to finally tackle those difficult brambles, but will also use it as a teaching aid for my students to help them see into the subtler aspects of the botanical ID process. This is the closest a book could get to actually being in a room with a plant ID specialist.
      —Dr Sarah Dalrymple, Co-Chair, Skills and Training Committee, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
    • How many times have we snapped our wildflower guides shut in frustration, defeated by docks or muddled by marsh-orchids? Well - dare I say it - this book might just finally be the answer we’ve all been waiting for. It's beautifully illustrated, easy to use and so desperately needed - I’m really excited to finally sort out those hawkbits and hawk’s-beards!
      —Leif Bersweden, author of Where the Wildflowers Grow
    • Frustrating Flowers and Puzzling Plants is a fabulous new guide for understanding those tricky groups that you have left at the end of your visit, pressed mournfully in a folder marked 'to be confirmed'. I love the summary tabular character matrices, the clear illustrations and quirky facts dropped into each introduction. I thoroughly endorse this fabulous book and look forward to sharing it with my own students.
      —Sue Dancey, Identiplant Tutor

    About the Author

    John Warren has had a long academic career researching the origins of botanical diversity and promoting public understanding of science. Having been Professor of Botany at Aberystwyth University, in 2016 he became Vice Chancellor of the Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment. Now retired back in the UK, he is an Associate Tutor for the Field Studies Council.

    Bibliographic Information

    • 296 pages
    • Colour illustrations
    • BISAC SCI011000, SCI087000, NAT013000, NAT026000