September 23, 2019
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New field guide highlights ecological and economic importance of grasses and rushes

Community Author: Stantec
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Stantec | Contributed
Stantec | Contributed
Cover photo of new field guide "Grasses and Rushes of Maine."

TOPSHAM — Stantec, a global design and engineering firm, has partnered with the Maine Natural History Observatory and the Maine Natural Areas Program to produce a user-friendly field guide to the grass and rush plant families of Maine.  

The professional-quality guide serves to bridge the gap between highly technical field manuals and abridged field guides to foster understanding and appreciation of these ecologically and economically important plant families.

Titled “Grasses and Rushes of Maine,” the guide will enable diverse audiences, including the general public, natural resource professionals, land managers, and scientists, to recognize more than 200 species of grasses and rushes that occur in Maine, including rare and invasive species. The guide serves as a complement to the highly successful “The Sedges of Maine – A Field Guide to the Cyperaceae,” released in 2013.

Grasses and rushes are dominant components of many ecosystems including freshwater wetlands, tidal marshes, woodlands, alpine areas, sand dunes, and managed fields. In fact, these two plant families contribute to a large portion of the flora in Maine, with a significant number of species listed as rare, historic, and even invasive.  

“Previous manuals on the grass and rush families are highly technical, limiting accessibility and general awareness of the unique natural elements right outside our doors,” said Matt Arsenault, senior botanist and ecologist with Stantec and one of the guide’s collaborators. “With this field guide, we hope to open the world of grass and rush identification to professional and amateur plant enthusiasts alike, to the benefit of local wildlife and habitat.”

This guide includes introductory material on the two plant families, a glossary that describes key characteristics, and a series of photo-driven keys that allow the user to quickly gain an understanding of an unknown species. Detailed descriptions for each species are accompanied by high resolution images of distinctive features, as well as discussions of the preferred habitat and statewide distribution.  

The project is a collaborative effort between Matt Arsenault, senior botanist and ecologist with Stantec in Topsham; Glen Mittelhauser, director of the not-for-profit Maine Natural History Observatory in Gouldsboro; Don Cameron, botanist and ecologist with the Maine Natural Areas Program; and Dr. Eric Doucette, assistant professor of biology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Funding of the guide was generously provided by Stantec, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, and the Maine Natural History Observatory.

The book is available now through the University of Maine Press, the Maine Natural History Observatory, Amazon.com, and select local retailers.