Double Cone Quarterly
Summer Solstice 2002 -- Volume V, Number 2

Book Review

Book Cover

Wildflowers of Monterey County
A Field Companion

Photographs by David J. Gubernick
Commentary and Data by Vern Yadon
Edited by Barbara March
2002, Carmel Publishing Company

Reviewed by Nikki Nedeff (, with select photographs and accompanying text excerpts from the book. All images and text presented here are ©2002 by their creators, all rights reserved.

The newly released "Wildflowers of Monterey County, A Field Companion" is a paperback field guide that illustrates flowers in a manner that transcends and amplifies common perspective. It's an incredibly beautiful book, with 162 lush photographs of Monterey County's field, forest and dune flowers paired with scientifically correct natural history information. The book joins art and science. It is both visually stunning, as well as educational. Brilliant color images are accented with clinical data presented in a very readable style that encourages the reader to visit county wildlands looking for our floral treasures.

monkey flower Scarlet Monkey Flower
Mimulus cardinalis, family Scrophulariaceae

This plant is particularly spectacular when small and may appear to have been cultivated. A member of the Snapdragon family, it grows around wet places, such as springs and is often found growing in the Big Sur River bed at mid-summer and continues on when the stream begins to recede. Foliage is light green and quite glandular. The snapdragon-like red flowers may be in a cluster of two or three. Parts of the Santa Lucias, the Diablo and Gabilan Ranges are common habitat for this plant.

Vivid, glorious close-up images of flowers are loosely grouped according to biogeographic regions of Monterey County, from beaches at sea level to mountainous sites well over one mile in height. Photographer David J. Gubernick tramped in grasslands, marshes and forests and found flowers clinging to rocky outcrops and buried in deep sand. He passionately documented each flower, including those common and rare, with artistic vision and technical skill (David J. Gubernick is a member of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. For insight into his ardent exploration of floristic artistry, please see his accompanying narrative below).

The book's text author, Vern Yadon, is the former Director of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and without equal as Monterey County's botanical master. He has several plants named in his honor. Yadon remarks in the book that the 2000 species and varieties of plants found in Monterey County reflect an incredible variety of microclimates, soil types and habitat variables. But for Vern, wildflowers are pure joy and his detailed scientific text is softened with lighthearted comment.

Leopard Lily
Lilium pardalinum, family Liliaceae

You must get off the beaten path to see the Leopard Lily. Even though they are simple to grow from seed, people take mature plants, which accounts for their disappearance. Transplanted in home gardens they rarely survive because this plant wants to be in a wet place and then must dry completely off. Constant moisture destroys the bulb. Leopard Lily still exists in the Big Sur area where they often grow around springs and water courses. Within a fairly short blooming period, they can be 18 inches high, or up to six or more feet. Hummingbirds like them and often drench themselves in the pollen of this flower.
leopard lily

The field guide was deftly edited by Barbara March of Carmel Publishing. The book includes a useful index of flower images arranged by color, as well as an excellent section of resources to help the reader learn and see more of the county's botanical wealth. The book is available at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, as well as many local bookstores. Enjoy the vibrant color images and the cogent captions. You might consider buying two copies of the book - one for your backpack and one for the coffeetable.

"Wildflowers of Monterey County, A Field Companion" is a collaborative project between the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and Carmel Publishing Company. Funds provided by the Museum and the Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society helped make this book a reality.

bush poppy Bush Poppy
Dendromecon rigida, family Papaveraceae

Sometimes referred to as Tree Poppy, Bush Poppy never attains tree size. This delightful bush often decorates a ridge top where a bulldozer has destroyed the contour. Dendromecon's roots travel along granitic rock cracks, often sprouting along the way. If a bulldozer blade should cut the roots of an established plant a new one will brashly occupy the roadway the following spring. By popping its seeds, it can sometimes re-seed a spot more than ten feet from the mother plant. Flowers are the size of a 50-cent piece. Most are four-petaled and bright yellow. A drive through Fort Hunter Liggett to the Indians is certain to pass populations of Bush Poppy. One can also see them at Manzanita Park, the Pinnacles National Monument, the summit of the Santa Lucias and other places where the landscape is extremely dry and hot.


Whisper in the Wind

by David J. Gubernick

Iam on a spiritual quest. My annual spring pilgrimage begins this time in a remote canyon. I am hiking up the trail, scanning the hillsides and listening for a voice in the wilderness. "Over here," whispered not in words but visually through a spot of color and shape, draws my attention to the bank of a tiny, trickling creek. With camera in hand, I approach silently with child-like excitement.

I bend over, as if bowing in respect, to take a closer look. It is a glowing, golden-yellow beauty that we have mundanely called Common Monkey Flower. Now on my knees as if in prayer, I slowly becoming aware that I am entering sacred space. I stretch out on my stomach, prostrating myself to this miracle of Nature.

And now the moment arrives as I gently raise my camera and look through the viewfinder. Suddenly, I am drawn into a world of vibrant color and extraordinary patterns that literally takes my breath away. When I finally exhale, I feel my body softening as if my physical boundaries were dissolving. Time stands still and the rest of the world goes silent. My heart opens, infused with love and beauty. I am at peace. Like a sacred object, my camera has parted the veil of mystery separating me from this not-so-common Monkey Flower. We are one in this sacred moment, on this holy ground.

Only a few seconds have passed. Back in the present again, the photographer-artist in me takes over. I begin my ritual; setting up my tripod and attaching my camera. I use a saturated film to bring out the colors that first called to me. The macro lens allows me to focus closer and magnify the image, revealing intricate details. I then concentrate on composition by filling the frame and blurring the background to make the flower stand out in all its splendor. A diffuser (a flexible hoop with stretched white nylon) softens the sunlight hitting the flower, and a gold reflector bounces warm light onto it to make it glow and help recreate my first moment of discovery. I wait patiently for barely perceptible currents of air to quiet as the Monkey Flower flutters in my viewfinder. At that split second of stillness, I press the cable release. With a silent "thank you," the quest begins anew as I get up off the ground, pack up my equipment and go on, listening for another whisper in the wind.

By sharing these intimate moments, through images that give form to feelings, I hope you experience a similar moment of wonder and delight, a gentle reminder of the ever present possibility of expanding our awareness to embrace the beauty and magic that surrounds us and that is literally at our feet.

©2002, David J. Gubernick, All Rights Reserved