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This coffee-table book provides a good general answer to the question "What is a prairie?" as well as a good overview of the geology, geography and natural history of Iowa. If you can only afford time to study one book before visiting Iowa, this is a good candidate.
This book is perhaps the best general overview of the cultural and historical processes that have shaped the landscape of the great plains, converting the land from prairie to a checkerboard of farms and destroying all but a tiny fraction of the native vegetation.
This is a good general reference to wildflowers, organized by family and with small but well made photos of each species. It isn't specific to Iowa, nor does it include anything beyond species identification.
This is a good general reference to wildflowers, organized by color and shape, and with well made drawings (and some paintings) of each species. It isn't specific to Iowa, nor does it include any information beyond species identification.
If you can only bring one book with you on a summer prairie field trip, this is probably the book to bring. The photos are excellent, the text provides not only botanical but cultural information about the flowers you will see, and the introduction gives an excellent short answer to the question "What is a prairie?" The one excentricity worth pointing out about this book is that the contents are ordered by roughly the time of year the plants bloom; spring flowers are in the front, while fall flowers are in the back. This ordering takes some time to get used to!
If you can only bring one book with you on a winter prairie field trip, this is the book to bring. The black and white drawings are just the thing to help identify the dried prairie flowers.
If you want to learn how to tell big bluestem from indian grass, this is the right book. It also includes sedges and other wetland plants, so it's handy for a visit to a marsh as well as a prairie.
This book contains strategraphic sections and detailed writeups of both the major rock formations and the common fossils found around the Coralville Reservoir.