The book I use most for identification and description is Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean: A Complete Guide to the Islands and Coastal Regions , by Marjorie Blamey (the illustrator) and Christopher Grey-Wilson (who contributes the botanical descriptions), published by A & C Black. I ‘ve found it really excellent: the illustrations are very clear and easier to use for identification than most photographs, and each has a number which leads you straight to the description. It covers more than three times as many species as my old Flowers of the Mediterranean by Polunin and Huxley.
A book with fewer plants, but one in which I seem to find what I want straightaway, is La nature méditerranéenne en France, by Philippe Martin et Les Écologistes de l’Euzière, publishers Delachaux et Niestlé. The first 104 pages are an introduction to the geology, environments and ecosystems of Mediterranean France and the next 160 cover the flora and fauna, including insects and birds. If you could only take one book with you on a nature study trip, this would be it. Of course, it’s all in French.
I also find Geoffrey Grigson’s A Dictionary of English Plant Names (Allen Lane, 1973) fascinating, as is Culpepper’s Complete Herbal (Foulsham & Co). Geoffrey’s wife Jane has produced a compendium of vegetable recipes in Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book (Penguin, 1980). Richard Mabey’s Food for Free (Collins, 1972) is my main guide for edible uses of plants outside the mainstream. A very recent and welcome addition to such guides is Wild Foods by the Wayside, by Heiko Vermeulen, available from Pilgrimage Publications here. I reviewed this book on October 14th, here. A great read which will change the way you view plants is Richard Mabey’s Weeds: in defence of nature’s most unloved plants (Profile Books, 2010).
I’ll add other books as I find them helpful.
As for websites, I’ll also keep a rolling list of ones I’ve been interested by. For now, I’d recommend these (click on the address to go to the site):
http://www.maltawildplants.com A real work of love by an enthusiast, with stunning photos of plants in situ on the Maltese islands. A great help in identification. (NB – as of July 2012, this site has been suspended due to funding problems. I hope the author can manage to bring it back soon).PS – here’s part of an email I received in March 2013 from the site owner:
Thank you for your email and encouragement. I am trying to save the website and seeking for financial sponsors or advertisement. I have the pleasure to inform you that I already found one and seeking for few others. I am asking sponsors for 500Eur and adverts for 120Eur a year. If you know someone who might be interested, please pass on the word.
http://www.florealpes.com/ Is maybe one alternative to the above, lots of photos and searchable for flower names in French (the language of the site) and Latin. Covers the Alps and Provence – but also further afield.
http://www.floracatalana.net/ Is yet another possibility – photos of the plants of Catalunya, easy to search, translations between Latin/Spanish/Catalan.
http://jeantosti.com/Fleurs.html. This takes you to his ‘Fleurs de Roussillon’ site – good range of plants, clearly photographed, and just next door to the Languedoc.
http://www.tela-botanica.org/site:accueil. Collaborative site run by the Institut de Botanique in Montpellier, covering the whole of France, with lots of documents and over 70,000 photos! But the identifications are only as good as the amateur uploaders….
http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.aspx. The site of Plants for a Future, a charitable enterprise concentrating on edible and medicinal plants.
http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/ A fascinating and very informative site with sensible evaluations of the risks for many common plants, a blog, interesting facts and much more. By the former warden of the Poison Garden at Alnwick.
http://jardin-sec.com/ The website of the Filippi Mediterranean garden centre near Mèze in the Hérault (near where I live) – if you like any of the plants you see on my blog, don’t dig them up but look for them here (and find many other plants suited to a dry climate). They are real experts and the plants we have bought from them have been of superb quality. They do mail-order too. The site has some good photos in the Photothèque and the catalogue is a mine of useful information on plant origins, frost resistance, flowering times and much more.
http://www.ambhhc.org/index.html is the website of the Association Mycologique et Botanique de l’Herault et des Hauts Cantons – the nearest botanical group, who organise outings for plant identification, and publish a host of fascinating documents on their site.
http://www.theplantlist.org is a list of all known species of vascular plants (flowering plants, conifers and ferns), the result of collaboration between Kew Gardens and other gardens and databases worldwide. The definitive list of recognised Latin names for species (almost 300,000 of them), genera and families. I note from this site that family names all now end in ‘..acae’ so the ones I learned at school such as Compositae and Leguminosae have changed, to Asteracae and Fabacae in those examples.