NACOGDOCHES, Texas — For years, the lack of a comprehensive local flora manual for East Texas has been an impediment for Dr. James Van Kley’s ongoing research as a professor of biology at Stephen F. Austin State University. The problem is nearing its end as Part 1 of the book “Herbaceous Plants of the Pineywoods of East Texas and Louisiana” was published in October with text written by Van Kley and illustrations created by Bruce Lyndon Cunningham, a Nacogdoches-based illustrator.

This manual covers the non-woody herbaceous vascular Eudicotyledons, which are the largest of flowering plant groups, along with the herbaceous Magnoliids and waterlilies, known as Nymphaeids of the piney woods of East Texas and west Louisiana. Filling a major gap in earlier publications, this book marks the first time a local manual has offered comprehensive coverage of the entire flora for this region.

For 17 years, Van Kley has been working toward creating a comprehensive local flora manual to aid his research and help involve and train his students. This book is the first part of a proposed three-volume project detailing all native and naturalized plants of the piney woods region.

“It is rewarding to finally have a working local flora manual after all of these years,” Van Kley said. “It has been a big learning curve for me because my prior research work is as a vegetation ecologist rather than as a floristic botanist. It is also rewarding to have contributed to the local art culture of Nacogdoches by providing a venue for Bruce Cunningham's beautiful drawings.”

The process for writing this book started with a large vegetation dataset that Van Kley has accumulated over more than 25 years of ecological research in the piney woods. His extensive excursion notes, species lists, personal database with more than 12,000 photographic specimens, and 80,000 specimens in the ASTC Herbarium, a dried plant collection at SFA, informed the text and illustrations.

“Our goal was to make the book as accessible as possible to those with only minimal training in botany,” Van Kley said. “Anyone from students, professional botanists and vegetation researchers to landowners and ranchers who wish to learn more about their land can benefit from this book. I’m sure wildflower enthusiasts and hobbyists as well as art appreciators, including those who wish to see the beautiful drawings of our local artist, Bruce Cunningham, would love this book.”

Van Kley will host a small book signing event open to the public from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Fredonia Brewery, 138 N. Mound St.

He will also have a book signing event at the Native Plant Society of Texas Fall Symposium from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at the Fredonia Hotel, 200 N. Fredonia St.

To purchase a copy of the book online, visit the Forester-Artist website

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at the SFA website