"Table Mountain," write Albin Bills and Samantha Mackey, "is one of the premier wildflower locations in all of California. ... Drifts and swaths of yellow, blue, and orange, mixed with pinks and whites swirl over the landscape, like a huge Impressionist painting come to life."
Bills, who taught biology for many years at Butte College, and Mackey, a consulting botanist with expertise on rare and endangered plants, have written an indispensable companion for those who want to explore the area. "Wildflowers of Table Mountain: A Naturalist's Guide" ($17.95 in paperback, part of the Chico State University Herbarium series, www.csuchico.edu/herbarium), is the second edition of a work first published in 2004. Retaining the original line drawings of Larry Jansen, the book now features full-color photographs throughout and, like Table Mountain itself, is a delight to the eye.
Lyon Books in Chico is hosting a book signing this Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m. Look for a forthcoming interview with Albin Bills on Nancy's Bookshelf from KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM). Archives can be found at kchofm.podbean.com.
The craft of designers Carole Montgomery and Elizabeth Quivey is evident throughout. The center section presents color groups of some seventy "of the most common, showy wildflower species that occur on Table Mountain during late winter through spring"; scientific names are given in the index; and a bloom-time calendar also aids in identification.
The first part of the book mixes practical advice on how best to approach Table Mountain with narratives about its formation, the wildflower patterns, waterfalls, and more. The last section, drawing on the work of Jim Jokerst, lists all known vascular plants on "North Table Mountain." There's also an illustrated guide to common animals in the area, with pride of place going to the California Newt, Bills' special interest for many years.
The wildflower catalog is more than a bare list; each plant has a story to tell. For the grass-pink (wild carnation), "a new solitary flower is produced every day, replacing the one that came before it." The California goldfields "form vast sheets and showy rings of rich yellow color that encircle many of the rock outcrops."
The Guide, novice-friendly but detailed enough for the serious explorer, is simply superb, a colorful array blooming now at your bookstore.