An essential companion on your walks to the country

MARK BORG takes Edwin Lanfranco and Guido Bonett’s Wild Flowers of the Maltese Islands for a spin around the relevant landscapes the recently published guidebook covers 

The Spanish Vetch that flowers between March and May
The Spanish Vetch that flowers between March and May

The test of a guidebook is to actually take it with you on walks and see how it performs, and so I took a trip down to a valley close to home and tested it out. As far as I’m concerned it passed the test with flying colours. At the moment it is a good time to do flower-spotting, as there are quite a few wild plants blooming in the countryside. But of course, the peak is still coming, with Spring quickly approaching, when most of our plants actually flower. Personally I can’t wait to put on my hiking boots and with this guide in hand and my camera slung around my neck start my country walks hoping to spot some of the rarer species.

What’s great

The book is written by Edwin Lanfranco, the renowned and undoubtedly the best botanist we have on the Islands. Although the book does not cover all the known species of plants in Malta – as it would probably take a much thicker book to do so – it does cover most, if not all, the plants one is most likely to encounter, even many of the rarer species.
For each species one will find its scientific name, its common names, both in English and Maltese, the habitat type it prefers and its flowering months. There is also a short comment on the distinguishing features of the plant particularly related to size and varieties. In the text provided one also learns whether the plant was introduced to the islands, or whether it is native of even endemic, that is found only on the Maltese islands. The guide also indicates whether the particular plant is common, scarce or one of the rarer species.
An extremely useful and innovative feature of this guidebook is that the plants are categorized by the colour of their flowers. The edges of the pages are coloured grey (for the white flowers), yellow, red, violet or green. Guido Bonett provided the photographs for the volume, and his photos have illustrated a number of books about the Maltese natural environment. The quality and selection of the photos used in this guide is such that one can immediately recognize a flower by the photograph provided. You see a flower and kaboom – a couple of minutes later you know all you need to know about it.

What could be better

There were only two improvements I could suggest for consideration for a next edition. The first would be in regard to its format. In its current format it is slightly too big to fit nicely in a jacket’s side pocket. The second would be to provide examples of sites in Malta where some of these flowers grow, particularly the rarer species. Personally I would find this information more useful in a local guidebook than their range in the world, which the book provides.
All in all, a great addition to anyone’s library and an essential companion during walks in our countryside.

Published by BDL, the guide is priced at 15 and can be obtained from all major booksellers