A collaboration of local authors has produced a new field guide to the wildflowers on Mt. Shasta, featuring high quality reproductions of the wildflower watercolor paintings of Ed Stuhl. The book will be available locally in the next few weeks.
Ed Stuhl’s finely detailed watercolor paintings of the flowering plants on Mt. Shasta are back in print thanks to a collaborative effort by local authors Michael Zanger, Jane Cohn, Ken Goehring, and Linda Freeman.
Their new book, “Mount Shasta Wildflowers: A Field Guide,” features high quality reproductions of Stuhl’s wildflower watercolors accompanied by botanical descriptions and current common and scientific names.
Current and historic trail codes are included on each plant’s page as well, indicating the mountain trail along which each flower is presently found or was found in the past.
With a motto of “art first,” the authors envisioned the field guide format as a way to bring the paintings back to the public in a form that would also be useful for hikers and others interested in the mountain’s flora.
Stuhl’s previously published coffee table book featuring Mt. Shasta’s wildflowers has been out of print for years.
“The book’s primary function is art, and we put the botany around it,” Goehring said. “It’s been a life dream to get Ed’s work out there in a high quality form. To us, this is his book. We’re just finishing the job he wanted done.”
Cohn said she first spoke with Zanger about creating a field guide using Stuhl’s paintings in 1997.
She was working for Shasta Mountain Guides, an organization created and led for many years by Zanger, and had been using Stuhl’s coffee table book as a reference for the flowering plants she encountered on Mt. Shasta. But the book was too big to take on a trail hike.
“I wanted the paintings in a field guide that could be carried onto the mountain and had updated and easily accessible botanical descriptions,” she said.
Cohn said Zanger had been “very good friends” with Stuhl and was receptive to the idea. It wasn’t until years later that the project took form and got rolling.
In 2012 Zanger contacted Goehring, a retired College of the Siskiyous instructor, and asked if he would be the botanist for the project.
Goehring was interested and agreed to begin working on it – as soon as Zanger and Cohn got the rights to use the paintings, which are housed in the Meriam Library Special Collections at CSU Chico.
Although challenging, efforts to obtain permission to use the paintings were ultimately successful. In 2013 special collections head librarian George Thompson granted the authors the right to use images of Stuhl’s paintings in the field guide and to reprint five paintings as fine art prints and posters. CSU Chico provided high resolution scans of the paintings for use in the project.
“When we got permission we really went to work, hiking the trails, identifying the flowers, and considering how the book might be organized,” Cohn said. “It was exciting to have Ken on the project as a botanist so he could direct us in a meaningful way.”
Goehring’s wife Linda Freeman was just finishing her book on the history of the City of Weed when work on the field guide began in earnest. Cohn said the couple had been working on the botany of the area for a long time.
“The level of scientific accuracy in the images demonstrates Ed’s mastery of the watercolor medium and his proficiency as a self-taught botanist. If there are tiny hairs on the leaves of a particular plant, they’re in the painting,” Goehring said.
The authors placed the art front and center in the field guide, using pictures as large as possible on the page and short botanical descriptions, which Freeman acknowledged led to some difficult decisions.
“We decided to eliminate Ed’s signature and handwritten botanical names from the images, as it made the finished product easier to use as a field guide. We were committed to “art first,” but in a field guide format,” she said.
Zanger called on the expertise of Lani Phillips, owner of Wise Women Ink, to work with the high resolution scans.
Cohn said Phillips cleaned up the images so they had a true white background. “She also used her graphic design skills to design the front and back covers, and helped us find a printer.”
Local photographer Mark Stensaas contributed one of his photographs of Mt. Shasta for the front cover of “Mount Shasta Wildflowers: A Field Guide.”
Goehring said he and Freeman researched the botany for the guide extensively, and “hiked every trail on Mt. Shasta to see as much as we could” with their own eyes.
He cross-referenced the collection of Stuhl’s original watercolors with a published draft by Dean William Taylor about the plants on Mt. Shasta, looking for wildflowers growing above 5,000 feet for which there was a painting in the collection.
“We found 189 of them for inclusion in the book, and also added some of the flowers Ed painted that grow on the mountain below that elevation,” Goehring said, Some are historically documented but have not been seen on Mt. Shasta for many years.
They combed through botanical records, including U.C. Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium online resource Jepson eFlora, confirming another reason to remove the handwritten botanical names from Stuhl’s wildflower paintings for publication in the field guide. “Some of the scientific names Ed used had changed two or even three times since he published his coffee table book,” Freeman said.
She wrote the botanical descriptions accompanying each wildflower image and began laying out the book, with input from Phillips as to its dimensions.
Cohn said one of her roles in the project, as a person who knew nothing about botany, was to read Freeman’s descriptions and ask “What does that mean?” if she didn’t understand it.
Freeman said those questions allowed her to clarify the descriptions. “It was good to have two botanists and two non-botanists on the project.”
The field guide is sized for portability and includes several different ways to identify flowers found along Mt. Shasta’s trails. It includes a visual index that Goehring said “may be the first place I’d look if I knew nothing about botany and was using the book on the trail.”
The guides reference resources include keys and charts, an index to the current scientific and common names, a complete plant list arranged by family of “every plant that grows on Mt. Shasta except mosses, fungi, and lichens,” and an illustrated glossary of terms.
Zanger’s biographical narrative about Stuhl opens the book, and a map created by Zanger and his son Chris shows trail locations.
Cohn described one of Zanger’s main roles in the project as “a connector.” She said he had been “the credibility factor that helped us obtain the rights from the Meriam Library to use Ed’s paintings because Michael had some of Ed’s journals and was himself a published author.”
Cohn wrote the trail descriptions and driving directions for the guide and is in charge of distribution and most of the promotion.
“Mount Shasta Wildflowers: A Field Guide” should be available for purchase locally within the next several weeks at Sisson Museum, Village Books, Language Quest, and the Fifth Season in Mount Shasta, and at The Weed Store in Weed.
Cohn said she is talking with other interested businesses and organizations in the area about carrying it.
A slideshow event to be presented by Goehring and Zanger is planned for later this year.
For more information about the book, visit mountshastawildflowers.com.
The entire digital Meriam Library collection is available for viewing online at archives.csuchico.edu.