Can't Tell Sagebrush From Bitterbrush? The New Pocket Guide To Boise's Foothills Can Help

Aug 8, 2013

Shrubs like this one in the Foothills are identified in the pocket guide
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

How many times have you gone on a hike in the Boise foothills and stumbled across an unfamiliar flower? Now, there's a  Field Guide to Plants of the Boise Foothills that fits in your back pocket. 

State, county, city, and federal agencies got together to create this color-coded guide to plants in the city’s backyard.

Ecologist Mike Pellant and Jessica Gardetto, both with the Bureau of Land Management, helped put the guide together.

“The beauty of our little guide,” said Gardetto, “is the fact that anybody can use it.  The guide fits in your back pocket or can easily go in your backpack for a hike in the Foothills.  Say you find a grass you don’t recognize. You can flip through this guide, look at the grasses, you can find out what kind of grass it is and how long it grows for, some interesting facts about what eats it, if it’s a noxious weed, if it’s native, whether it flowers, and all sorts of interesting things about each plant.”

The guide has a description of each plant along with symbols, and interesting facts.

“What we tried to do was describe it, so that you could not only look at the picture, you could read about some distinguishing characteristics," said Pellant, “The interesting facts have a lot to do with anything from how did Native Americans historically use the plants, to some of the things they were used for more recently, whether wildlife prefer them, and whether they’re a good plant or a bad plant, relative to the foothills.”

There are 74 different plants in the book. About a third of them are non-native.  "Obviously there’s more native plants in the foothills.  We’ve tried to show the dominate ones," explained Pellant. "We also want people to be aware that not all plants are good.  There are plants that are not native to Idaho or the foothills and that can cause damage to the environment and economic harm if they become very populated across the landscape.”

Ecologist Mike Pellant and Jessica Gardetto, both with the Bureau of Land Management, and a shrub identified in the pocket guide.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Using the guide, explorers can figure out what’s good and what’s bad, even for their own backyard.

“The ultimate objective,” said Pellant, “is to get homeowners and the public to not only appreciate native plants but to have some of the skills and abilities to restore some of them.”

You can buy the guide at the the BLM Idaho State Office, 1387 S.Vinnell Way or the BLM Boise District Office, 3948 Development Way.  D&B Supply in Garden City has also agreed to sell the guide for cost, with no markup.  All proceeds from the sales go back into re-printing the guide.

You can also find it on the web.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio