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University of Iowa News Release


June 18, 2009

New books about the prairie available from University of Iowa Press

Two new book about the prairie -- "Enchanted by Prairie," featuring photographs by Bill Witt and an essay by Osha Gray Davidson, and the second edition of "Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie: The Upper Midwest" by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa -- are now available from the University of Iowa Press.

The books will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

Witt has been photographing Iowa's wild places for more than 30 years, and the result is "Enchanted by Prairie," a collection of images that revel in the beauty and diversity of Iowa's prairie remnants. Davidson's essay compares today's prairie remnants with yesterday's expanses and calls for us to restore balance to this damaged landscape.

Witt is the intellectual property officer for the University of Northern Iowa. His photos and essays have been published in the Iowan, Iowa Heritage Illustrated, Sierra, Nature Conservancy and the Sun. The Sierra Club named him an "American environmental hero" in 1991.

Davidson's work has appeared in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Nation, the New Republic and Popular Science. He is the author of five books of nonfiction, the most recent of which is "Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean."

Carl Kurtz wrote: "Iowa's tallgrass prairie was gone before we were born. Bill Witt's marvelous photos of Iowa's tallgrass prairie remnants and prose by Osha Davidson and Bill Witt give us a vision of what the prairie was and what it can do for us today. We did not save the prairie, but perhaps it can save us."

In his foreword to "Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie," John Madson wrote: "In wave after wave of floral successions in indigo, pale lavender, crimson, gold, cream, white, and magenta-in every tone and hue of the artist's palette-the prairie flowers come on . . . beginning with ground-hugging pasque flowers and birdsfoot violets and climaxing with towering sunflowers. . . . All of these, and more, are carefully and lovingly treated in the following pages by Sylvan Runkel and Dean Roosa, a pair of long-time prairie ramblers who know the tallgrass country and the native flowers to be found there."

This classic of Midwestern natural history is back in print with a new format and new photographs. Originally published in 1989, "Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie" introduced many naturalists to the beauty and diversity of the native plants of the huge grasslands that once stretched from Manitoba to Texas. Now redesigned with updated names and all-new photographs, this field companion will introduce tallgrass prairie wildflowers to a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts in the Upper Midwest.

Each species account is accompanied by a full-page color photograph by botanist Thomas Rosburg. Runkel and Roosa provide common, scientific and family names; the Latin or Greek meaning of the scientific names; habitat and blooming times; and a complete description of plant, flower and fruit. Also included is information on the many ways in which Native Americans and early pioneers used these plants for everything from pain relief to dyes to hairbrushes.

Daryl Smith of the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa wrote: "This book by two of Iowa's preeminent naturalists, Dean Roosa and the late Sylvan Runkel, is a real treasure. The excellent new photographs by Tom Rosburg complement text that provides useful descriptions, habitat information, and flowering times as well as interesting folklore or other uses of the plants. With the new format, these gems of plant information can be shared in the field, allowing us to once again 'walk with Sy on the prairie.'"

Runkel (1906-1995) was the coauthor of five books about Midwestern wildflowers, including "Wildflowers of the Iowa Woodlands" and "Wildflowers and Other Plants of Iowa Wetlands." He was honored by the dedication of the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve in 1996.

Roosa has served as Iowa's state ecologist, board member for the Iowa Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Areas Association, chair of the Iowa Natural History Association and president of the Iowa Ornithologists' Union. He is the coauthor of "The Vascular Plants of Iowa: An Annotated Checklist and Natural History," from the UI Press.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,