Granite and Wildflowers

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(Host) In Vermont, the natural world often meets the literary world. Commentator Jules Older has found the meeting place. In this case, the meeting places.

(Older) Two items Vermont has in great abundance are granite and wildflowers. Somebody must have noticed, because there are now four recent books, all by local authors, on granite and wildflowers.

The first is called Granite and Cedar. It’s more about the granite in Vermonters’ souls, than the rock beneath their plow. It’s an unusual, even a bold combination of literature and photography. The story is by Howard Frank Mosher; the black and white photos by John Miller. They live in neighboring towns in the Northeast Kingdom. Both words and pictures are about the Kingdom, and both author and photographer know the territory very well indeed.

The second book is also a combination. With words by Tom Wessels and drawings by Brian Cohen, The Granite Landscape is a natural history of America’s mountain domes. It starts in New Hampshire, moves to Black Mountain in southern Vermont, then goes west toward Yosemite. The hyper-talented duo of Wessels and Cohen earlier collaborated on the beautiful book, Reading the Forested Landscape. Their new effort doesn’t disappoint. They transform cold, hard granite into verbal and visual poetry and at the same time, provide new ways of seeing the world beneath your hiking boots.

I hope your hiking boots stay on the granite and off the flowers. To better see and understand wildflowers, I recommend two recent books. One is Traveling with Wildflowers from Newfoundland to Alaska by Phyllis Joy Hammond. Ms. Hammond is an artist living in Newport Center. As she traveled across the northern reaches of the continent, she took her watercolors with her. Using paints and her finely tuned artist’s eye, she introduces readers to nature’s flowers as well as to the scenic spots they inhabit.

And finally, let me introduce you to Wildflowers of Vermont by Kate Carter. It’s a wonderful new book to carry with you as you walk the woods and meadows of the Green Mountain State. Wildflowers of Vermont is pocket sized, with a clear vinyl protective cover. The book identifies 235 wildflowers, separates them by color, tells you their size, bloom time and habitat. Along with the descriptions are fine color photos of each flower.

So, what would you see if you were to step outside as soon as I finish talking? Bellwort, a dangling yellow flower shaped like the uvula at the back of your throat; trout lily, another yellow beauty; and Stinking Benjamin, a.k.a. purple trillium, which has an intensely red color and an even more intensely terrible smell.

This is Jules Older, hiking the granite and smelling the flowers in Albany, Vermont, the soul of the Kingdom.

Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults, and is a passionate outdoors enthusiast. For more information about Phyllis Joy Hammond’s book, contact the author at

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