Economo E-Books to Release Its Third E-book on November 30: "The Nineteenth Century Flora of Dane County, Wisconsin" by Mark K. Leach and Alexandra Zelles

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“The Nineteenth Century Flora of Dane County, Wisconsin: A Twenty-First Century Update” by Mark K. Leach and Alexandra Zelles lists over 1400 species of plants and lichens along with historical information on each. Conservationists and native plant enthusiasts will find this work particularly useful.

The 19th Century Flora of Dane County

This e-book provides a new resource for restoration ecologists, who may find it helpful in selecting the most appropriate species to promote or reintroduce as part of local projects.

Fundamental to wise environmental decision-making is knowledge of what originally lived in a place. A soon-to-be released e-book (Economo E-Books) by Mark K. Leach and Alexandra Zelles details the plants and lichens found in Dane County, Wisconsin during the 1800s, a century when the land and waters in and around Madison underwent incredible ecological change. In their Introduction, Leach and Zelles describe the county’s natural vegetation and how it changed as a consequence of the steel plow, grazing, dams, drainage, growth of Madison, and other human uses.

Many of the remaining patches of natural vegetation “are relatively intact, but in desperate need of protection and restoration,” wrote Amy Staffen, ecological restorationist with The Prairie Enthusiasts, in the book’s Foreword. This e-book, she continues, “provides a new resource for restoration ecologists, who may find it helpful in selecting the most appropriate species to promote or reintroduce as part of local projects. Lastly, the legion of native plant gardeners in the area may find this resource of interest.”

“In creating this historical flora,” said Leach, “Ms. Zelles and I made use of 19th century publications, largely the1893 preliminary paper by University of Wisconsin-Madison botanists Lellan S. Cheney and Rodney True. A problem is that many plant names have changed. For example, Cheney and True named the sugar maple ‘Acer saccharinum,’ but we now use that name for the silver maple. Today the sugar maple is 'Acer saccharum,' but in the 1880s it was ‘Acer dasycarpum.’ We cleaned up a lot of nomenclatural confusion."

“We knew that written lists of plants were incomplete. Ms. Zelles and I spent weeks looking through herbarium data to learn what was growing in Dane County, and to find clues to each species’ habitat and abundance,” said Leach. Herbaria are labeled collections of plants or plant parts that are pressed, dried, and usually glued to archival paper. Leach and Zelles made use of the collections at the Wisconsin Herbarium in Madison and the Robert Freckmann Herbarium at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Mark K. Leach earned a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of “Positive Participation with Nature: Ecological Restoration in Wisconsin,” which is also published by Economo E-Books. Alexandra Zelles is a conservation biologist, recently receiving a master’s degree from Wright State University.

Economo E-Books is an independent publisher of books for the environmental and sustainability community. Mark K. Leach is owner and publisher. It is headquartered in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

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