“Wildflowers of Maine Islands: The Downeast and Acadia Coasts,” by Glen H. Mittelhauser; University of Maine Press, Orono, Maine, 2021; 392 pages, softcover, $28.

One of the best field guides to wildflowers I’ve used every summer for years is University of Maine Press’s “The Plants of Acadia National Park,” partly because its photos so clearly depict each plant and flower, and partly because its key system is so easy to use. Now UMaine Press has released another guide by one of that book’s authors, Glen Mittelhauser.

“Wildflowers of Maine Islands” provides the same basic design and clear photos, and zeroes its geographic coverage to the islands off Knox, Waldo, Hancock and Washington counties. The cold Labrador current affects habitats differently than do the waters southwest of Muscongus Bay, Mittelhauser says, creating differences in the wildflower populations on the islands. Indeed, a look through the book reveals some startling variations, at least to me. Queen Anne’s lace, which I would have said is basically a ubiquitous flower in Maine, is characterized as “uncommon” on the Down East islands. Lupines, which will light up fields all around Waldo County in a couple of months, are “rare” on the islands.

Many, maybe most of the wildflowers you see while rummaging around in fields and woodsides here on the mainland will be present in “Wildflowers of Maine Islands,” though, so this book is a great resource not just for islanders, but for anybody hunting flowers within scent of salt water, and farther inland yet.

Mittelhauser, of Gouldsboro, is executive director of Maine Natural History Observatory and an author, in addition to “Wildflowers of Maine Islands” and “Plants of Acadia,” of “Grasses and Rushes of Maine” and “Sedges of Maine.” All are available from University of Maine Press.

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Susan Dorman’s new collection in her Maine Metaphor series, “Maine in Winter,” is out just in time for spring. This collection follows “Visiting the Eastern Uplands” (2016), “Experience in the Western Mountains” (2015) and “The Green and Blue House” (2014), all of which tell stories about and observe Maine and its multifarious people, places and things as seen from Dorman’s home base near Bethel where she and her husband landed some decades ago.

“Maine Metaphor: Maine in Winter,” by S. Dorman; Resource Publications/Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2021; 148 pages, paperback, $15.

Her writings are at their best when she’s capturing the crisp, concrete details, and “Maine in Winter” is full of beautiful passages on the dark and light of our fabled snow season. She ruminates on dog sledding, the moon, learning to ski, ice underfoot, growing old, God, work, writing, reading (e.g., Down East novelist Robert Froese’s “The Hour of Blue”), the Ice Storm of ’98, snowfall, saunas and more.

It’s a book of observations embedded in narratives and narratives embedded in observations, in the form of journal entries embedded in essays, and little essays embedded in journal entries. The beauty is in the details: “Monday, December 7, 2009. The Infamous Day. Feeling old and with related trepidations over winter—the season now upon us with uneasy footing. Literal uneasy footing. I had to force myself onto the road today. Imagination could not get motivation going inside the being … just shrinking from thoughts of darkness, the ice, the dogs, the cane, the shading … Until at last I might find myself in starry dark on our icy roadway flashlight in hand, looking for slick patches. Safely past the leaseless dog-walking neighbor.”

Winter, too, offers moments of illumination, and Dorman’s are collected here. “Maine in Winter” is available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and online book sellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Thursdays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected].

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