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Wild and Beautiful

Wild and Beautiful:
A Natural History of the Open Spaces in Orange County
Edited by Allan Schoenherr
2011, 7” x 10”, 232 pages, 360 photographs
ISBN: 9780972854498

Wild and Beautiful: A Natural History of the Open Spaces in Orange County, a 232-page book that contains a vast compilation of the open spaces of Orange County and the creatures, plants, habitats, and landscapes that constitute them. As with his previous titles, Schoenherr has collected an impressive array of information and photographs that creates a resource valuable to both the reader in the comfort of their home and the hiker ascending up the trail. You will be hard-pressed to find another book that is such a wonderful blend of incredible photography and informative material.


Wild and Beautiful is a celebration of Orange County’s wild lands. This book contains descriptions of those areas that are accessible to hikers, bikers, equestrians, birders, and nature-lovers. Loaded with photographs and descriptive text, it also features a natural history of Orange County’s animals, plants, and plant communities. Allan Schoenherr taught biology, ecology, and natural history courses as a professor at Fullerton College for many years. He also taught as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine, and California State University, Fullerton. He has lived in Orange County most of his life and has been a resident of Laguna Beach since 1973. A noted authority on California, he is the author of A Natural History of California, the lead author of Natural History of the Islands of California, and an editor for Terrestrial Vegetation of California. He is a hiker and photographer who has traveled extensively in Orange County’s wild lands.



The first part of this book is about public land, or land for which the emphasis is on preservation of the natural order of things and for which access is provided for the general public. It is a respected truth that, unless they have experienced it, people find it difficult to understand why land should be preserved in a natural state. Various parcels of public land will be described with an emphasis on what makes each one valuable or important.

This book will refer primarily to the coastal or cismontane side of the Santa Ana Mountains and the adjacent coastal plain that lies in Orange County. For the purpose of continuity, however, regions south of the county line, particularly the San Mateo drainage and its wilderness, will be included. Natural landscapes are to be celebrated and appreciated. Features such as notable habitats, bird-watching opportunities, hiking trails campgrounds, and picnic spots will be emphasized, but public places devoted entirely to recreation such as ball fields will not be discussed.

The remainder of this book is about the natural history of Orange County – about plants, animals, rocks, weather, and climate. It is not a field guide. While it may be useful for identifying various plants, animals, and rocks, it is more than mere descriptions of things. There will be an emphasis on things that are common, interesting, or significant and on the way organisms interact with the environment and each other. Beyond just learning the names f things, readers will learn how things fit together in the great scheme of life and life processes.


3 reviews for Wild and Beautiful

Peter A. Bowler

Allan Schoenherr, author of “A Natural History of California”, has done it again! In an elegant, magnificently illustrated treatment of Orange County open spaces, Schoenherr has brought forward basic ecological principles, applied them to local communities and habitats, and produced a superb guide to the “natural history of open spaces of Orange County.” This reader friendly text by a longtime Laguna Beach ecologist is a classic that is a “must” for anyone interested in the outdoors and the ecology of the region.

-Peter A. Bowler
Wild and Beautiful – Review by Peter A. Bowler.pdf
Laguna Beach Independent Review – Wild and Beautiful.pdf

The OCInSite

The 346 photographs and illustrations are of extraordinary quality, and Schoenherr does a very good job of describing the County’s keystone, dramatic vascular plants and where they fit within our local ecology. He also provides maps and directions to our open space areas, which is a big help in discovering how to access them and the role each plays in the bigger picture of open space linkages and context in the County.
All told, the book presents the best reader-friendly interpretation of our area that has been compiled, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to all audiences. It is written in a way that is inviting and readily understandable for anyone interested in the outdoors, plants, animals, geology and habitats of the County’s open spaces. – October 13, 2011
The OCInSiteWild and Beautiful Book Review.pdf
Arboretum Quarterly Winter 2011 – Wild & Beautiful Review .pdf

Orange County Register

Few could capture the breadth of it, from the tiniest insect to the widest landscape, better than ecologist and Laguna Beach resident Allan A. Schoenherr. He’s done it in a new book, “Wild and Beautiful: A Natural History of Open Spaces in Orange County.”
The book isn’t just another catalog of plants and animals. It’s packed with facts and stunning photos of wild land, habitat and species, as well as full-color maps.
There are sections on climate, weather, seasons, wildfire, geology, earthquakes and the subtle intricacies of the tidal zones. And Schoenherr carefully untangles the web of federal, state, local and private wild land to make sense of the many overlapping jurisdictions.

Orange County Register – February 17, 2011
OC Science : The Orange County Register – Wild and Beautiful Book Review.pdf

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