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October 12, 1986|Barbara Saltzman

WILDFLOWER FOLKLORE by Laura C. Martin (East Woods: $16.95; 256 pp.).

MARJORIE BLAMEY'S PORTRAITS OF WILD FLOWERS by Philip and Marjorie Blamey (Salem House: $11.95; 80 pp.) GROWING AND PROPAGATING WILD FLOWERS by Harry R. Phillips (University of North Carolina: $24.95; 331 pp.).

The lure of wildflowers permeates Laura C. Martin's investigation of the legends surrounding such diverse flora as the dandelion and the violet. Flower "biographies" are arranged by color, beginning with blue and violet blossoms; followed by brown and green; white; yellow; pink; orange, and red. Descriptions are easy to follow, with habitat and time of bloom clearly delineated. While the lore surrounding each flower may captivate, however, the individual black-and-white line drawings do not.

More vivid illustrations, if not word portrayals, can be found in Marjorie and Philip Blamey's slim effort, where plants are grouped by family with the focus on alpine and field flowers of Britain and Europe. Unfortunately, the intriguing details found in "Wildflower Folklore" are not so easily come by here.

Harry R. Phillips' book poses an ironic dilemma. Could wildflower "conservation through propagation" really end up being elimination--not preservation--through propagation? Collection of species in the wild by unknowing hands could well mean floral demise. Nonetheless, Phillips does show clearly how to use wildflowers in the home garden, from seed collection and propagation through cultivation. While most plants discussed are native to eastern North America, many grow well in Southern California. Unfortunately, Phillips' organization doesn't make it easy to find those wildflowers in this book, unless you know the name of the plant you seek. Except for a clump of color photos of selected plants, illustrations are small black-and-white line drawings. All told, we're still awaiting the definitive book on wildflowers.

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