Putnam, Michael
Through the Looking Glass, Again
Live from the Lakes, A Wisconsin Lakes BLOG, October 17, 2014
UW Extension Lakes
Stevens Point
Original Date

Click here for the entry for the book Through the Looking Glass



THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS … AGAIN. Posted on October 17, 2014 by Mike Putnam

A persistent misconception about aquatic plants is that they are “weeds”. With names like pondweed, pickerelweed and duckweed, it’s not hard to understand why this view persists. Yet, native aquatic plants are important for healthy lakes. Seventeen years ago a then-new book on Wisconsin’s aquatic plants began dispelling this notion and explained the important roles these plants play in lakes and rivers.

That now classic book Through the Looking Glass, a Field Guide to Aquatic Plants is making its second debut. TTLG, named for Lewis Carroll’s famous book, captured a wide readership among lake enthusiasts because it combined clear writing, useful identification tips, scholarship and careful yet artistic illustrations. Like Carroll’s book where Alice passed through a looking glass to another world, TTLG provided entry into another, albeit watery, world.

The new edition of TTLG, like the first, resulted from collaboration between DNR, the University of Wisconsin Extension Lakes program, and non-profit Wisconsin Lakes. While TTLG’s focus is on Wisconsin’s aquatic plants, its usefulness and attractive layout gained a wide readership because it made these seemingly inaccessible plants accessible to novice and professional alike. Consequently, TTLG sold in all 50 states and at least five other countries. But, since TTLG was first published in 1997 much has changed in the realm of aquatic plants.

These changes are reflected in TTLG’s new edition and include updates to the plants’ scientific names, new aquatic invasive species of plants and practices for slowing the spread of AIS. Further, the new edition has additional species, both invasive and native, more identification tips and new illustrations. The book now includes a brief section on the floristic quality index. FQI describes a lake’s water quality based on the plants found in a lake and is useful for tracking changes in the lake. Also, shaded tabs on page margins quickly guide readers to the book’s four plant groupings: emergent, free-floating, floating-leaf and submersed.

TTLG book mark artTo maintain the first edition’s high standards, a team of specialists assembled in late 2012 to start the revision. Fortunately, two of the three original authors, Susan Borman and Robert Korth, provided guidance. Other team members came from DNR, UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology, UW – Stevens Point’s Freckmann Herbarium and UWEX Lakes. After one face-to-face meeting in late 2012, the team regularly teleconferenced over the next year to identify the needed changes and write the revisions and additions.

What could have been a major impediment was the unavailability of the original artist, Carol Watkins. Fortunately, Dorothy Semple stepped into the void and crafted the new illustrations that blend so well with Watkins’ originals. Once the revised text and illustrations were completed, the book went to the original publisher, Reindl Printing in Merrill, Wisconsin.

So, this autumn, when, quoting Lewis Carroll, “the woods look sleepy [and] when the leaves are getting brown,” the new edition of TTLG went on sale. Comparing the two editions side by side, it’s immediately apparent the high standards of the first edition remain and the new parts enhance the original features.

Looking back at the revision process, DNR’s Sandy Wickman reminisced, “Everyone was so helpful on the TTLG team. We were lucky to have such great people. I loved listening to the team talk about these fascinating plants. I learned a lot.”

Available from University of Wisconsin Extension Lakes, Stevens Point.

Entry written by Michael Putnam, Water Resources Management Specialist