Flora of China, Volume 18: Scrophularlaceae through Gesneriaceae Wu Zhengyi and Peter Raven, eds., 1998. ISBN 0-915279-55-X (cloth US$85.00) 449 pp. Science Press, Beijing, and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, Missouri 63166-0299- "Taxonomy is the queen of all the sciences, because before you can say anything about an organism, you have to have a name for it." (I stole that from Bill Stott, former President at nearby Ripon College. He's a very clever fellow, but I suspect he stole it, too.)
The land area of China is very nearly that of the USA, about 3.6 million square miles, but containing about 25% of the world's human population. It is estimated that this area contains about an eighth (12.5%) of the world's vascular flora. It has been the subject of intensive study by Chinese botanists for many years; 75 of a projected 125 volumes of Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae have appeared since 1959, but all in Chinese and therefore largely inaccessible to most foreign readers.
The current effort is not merely a translation of what has already appeared, but a complete restudy. This is the fourth of a projected 25 volumes. It covers the Scrophulariaceae, Bignoniaceae, Pedaliaceae, Martyniaceae, Orobanchaceae, and Gesneriaceae, in all 1203 species distributed among 141 genera. The keys are entirely artificial, the legs numbered and indented. Full citations to type descriptions (but not type specimens) are given, with books and journals appropriately abbreviated in now-standard format, but with names of authors fully spelled out. Only widely-used synonyms and basionyms are cited under each species. There are no references to monographs or other revisions, and no specimens are cited. Full ranges both within and outside of China are given. Given that this is a floristic effort, not a political exercise, Taiwan is included.
Local uses of the plants are occasionally mentioned, but very briefly. In the first volume to appear, volume 17, 1994, it is stated that each plant has a Chinese name, given in Chinese characters and followed by a transliteration into Roman alphabet. Since this Chinese name and its transliteration is given for even the rare species, I gather they are not equivalent to common or English names. There are separate indexes to both of these "names,'.' and of course an index to all the Latin names.
Volumes of illustrations are planned; the first, covering volume 17 (Verbenaceae through Solanaceae) has now appeared. Eventually, the publishers expect that 40% of the Chinese flora will be covered. (A price for the illustrations volume to accompany volume 17 has not yet been posted on the website, though a recent catalog of the garden's publications gives it as US$95.)
So what's new here? It is a tried-and-true format, fairly conventional. What's new is, it is loaded with accessible information for the taxonomist, the horticulturalist, and the conservationist, heretofore available to the western world only in dribs and drabs, scattered in tens of thousands of (mostly) obscure publications.
In the Foreword, it is remarked that volume 4 is also scheduled to appear in 1998. At this rate, probably unsustainable, all 25 volumes will have appeared by A.D. 2014. Meanwhile, one can only applaud the vision of both the Chinese and the Westerners in getting this into our hands, if only piecemeal.
There was a time, not that long ago, when one or two botanists at the largest institutions would undertake to produce large floras; those days are long gone. Today, these are cooperative efforts involving dozens or even hundreds of botanists, plus generous support from individuals as well as public and private foundations. Like the other volumes, this one devotes an entire page to acknowledging this support. They and all the contributors do indeed deserve our thanks. - Neil A. Harriman, Biology Department, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI 54901; email@example.com.
Flórula de las Reservas Biológicas de Iquitos, Perú Vásquez Martínez, Rodolfo; 1997. ISBN 0915279-48-7 (cloth US$85) 1046 pp., Monographs in Systematic Botany Volume 63, Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299.
Flórula de las Reservas Biológicas de Iquitos, Perú Vásquez Martínez, Rodolfo; 1997. ISBN 0915279-48-7 (cloth US$85) 1046 pp., Monographs in Systematic Botany Volume 63, Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299.Many of us have enjoyed exploring the Amazon rainforest near Iquitos, Peru, either as part of research projects, school trips, or workshops. The area is botanically rich and-thanks to both local and international tourist agencies-easily accessible.
To help us understand the plant life of the region, a number of excellent books have recently been published-a catalog of the plants of Peru (Brako & Zarucchi 1993), a field guide to the woody plants of the region (Gentry 1993), and two treatments of the ethnobotany specific to Iquitos (Castner et al. 1998, Duke & Vásquez 1994). What has been lacking, however, is one source dealing with all the plants of the area. This book attempts to fill that need.
The Flórula is an in-depth study of three well-known reserves in northeastern Peru: La Reserva Allpahuayo Mishana (ALL-M) and its biological station, off the Rfo Nanay SW of Iquitos; La Reserva Explornapo Camp (SUC), including the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research, off the Rio Sucusari NE of Iquitos; and La Reserva Explorama Lodge (YAN) opposite Yanamono Island, Rfo Amazonas, NE of Iquitos. The first is the property of the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana, with the other two owned or managed by Explorama Tours.
The book begins with a 15-page Introduction describing the general characteristics of the reserves. Basic information on geology, climate, soils, and hydrology is followed by a detailed look at the vegetation. Forest types-based on presence/absence of seasonal inundation, amounts of primary/secondary growth, and soil characteristics-are designated and described, and the overall growth habits of species are examined.
The second half of the Introduction is an analysis of floristic composition and patterns of distribution and endemism. In total, 2740 species, 902 genera, and 164 families are represented in the three reserves. ALL-M is richest in total plant species, followed by YAN and SUC-even though YAN contains an area previously documented to have one of the most diverse woody floras known (Gentry 1988). But there's little surprise as far as plant families are concerned: Fabaceae and Rubiaceae are the top two in both number of genera and species.
The rest of the book is devoted to the Flora itself pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicots, and then monocots. (Sorry-no cryptogams!) Dichotomous keys are provided throughout, and families, genera, and species are all arranged alphabetically within each larger group. All taxa are provided short descriptions; in addition, for each species is listed the habitat in which it is most likely found, the reserve(s) in which it is found, its known uses, and common name.
Illustrations-apparently drawn by the author, either for this or previous works (Duke & Vdsquez 1994, Gentry 1993)-occupy 117 plates toward the back of the book. Generally, one illustration is provided for each genus, four to a page. (Quality varies from one to the next, but they're all quite serviceable.) This section is followed by a glossary, a most extensive and quite useful bibliography, and a list of common names.
All this, of course, makes for a massive tome-far too heavy to lug around in the field. But the book accomplishes its goal of pulling together all the information on all the plants of the region. It is so complete, in fact, that even poorly known or undescribed species (like "Lauraceae sp. A") are included in the keys and descriptions-to be dealt with more fully later! The Flórula is truly a remarkable contribution to our knowledge of the plants of the upper Amazon, and I commend (and thank) the author for his efforts. - L. J. Davenport, Department of Biology, Samford University, Birmingham AL 35229
Flora of the Venezuelan Guyana, Volume IV: Caesalpiniaceae - Ericaceae Julian A. Steyermark, Paul E. Berry, and Bruce K. Hoist, eds., 1998. ISBN 0-9152979-52-5 (cloth US$67.95) In English with 1329 species treated, 621 line drawings, 799pp. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, PO Box 299, St. Louis, Missouri 63166-0299.
Flora of the Venezuelan Guyana, Volume IV: Caesalpiniaceae - Ericaceae Julian A. Steyermark, Paul E. Berry, and Bruce K. Hoist, eds., 1998. ISBN 0-9152979-52-5 (cloth US$67.95) In English with 1329 species treated, 621 line drawings, 799pp. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, PO Box 299, St. Louis, Missouri 63166-0299.- This volume is included within the first encyclopedic accomplishment aimed at documenting the fascinating and complex flora of the Venezuelan Guyana. Volumes I through IV have been published, and the anticipated six remaining volumes will be published at the rate of approximately one or two per year. This work is the fruit of a worldwide collaboration of 180 botanists which has resulted in the recognition of hundred new species, dozens of new genera and several new families, some of them indigenous to this region such as the Euphroniaceae. I would like to give homage to the vast groundwork of collection and botanical identification Dr. Steyermark headed in the early phases of this scientific venture. If you are like me new to this extensive neotropical flora (nearly 9400 species and their subordinate taxa), you might want to know that the Venezuelan Guyana includes three states, nearly half the land area of Venezuela, or about 454,000 km2 with a total population of approximately 1.1 million inhabitants. The Venezuelan Guyana lies in the center of the Guyana Shield which is a complex mosaic of lithological units some of them comprising granites formed between 3.6-2.7 billion years ago. This shield is dominated today by massive plateaus known as tepuis. The climate of the Venezuelan Guyana varies greatly according to distance from the Atlantic Ocean, topography and altitude.
Volume IV continues the alphabetical sequence of family treatments and treats thirty five families from the Caesalpiniaceae through the Ericaceae. It is important to note that the authors recognized three families within the legumes (Fabaceae) from which the Caesalpiniaceae is treated in this volume. Each family is treated with a dichotomous key of the genera. Volume I provides a key to the families of spermatophytes from Venezuelan Guyana you might want to use before identifying the plant to the species level. Each family contains a worldwide description of their associated genera. Sadly, I was not able to use in the field the taxonomic treatments. I surely hope that a condensed version of this flora will be made available to the beginning tropical botanist. To avoid information loss the editors might want to think about presenting the flora by distinct geographic regions. The resulting literature might be easier to log around in your backpack! Within dichotomous headings, I really like the use of numbers in parenthesis referring you to the dichotomous couplet that led to the one you are currently inspecting. This feature allows more efficient backtracking of your identification steps. Genera are presented in alphabetical order with at least one line drawing per genera. Species entries are also organized alphabetically and are quite extensive with such data as: vernacular plant names, plant habit, diagnostic character not included in the species key, geographical distribution, and in some cases ethnobotanical uses. Known varieties and subspecies are also mentioned. The same types of information are presented as eluded previously in the species treatments. Line drawings are a very welcomed addition to the taxonomic treatments. I wish a metric scale would have been added to each of these drawings. Furthermore, in some rare cases macro illustrations, with a magnification coefficient, of the floral parts would have added to the informative nature of the illustration. I would have welcomed botanical legends with distribution maps on some illustrations. I have found the glossary of sedge morphology quite an helpful addition. The illustrative treatment of their vegetative and inflorescence characteristics were also welcome additions in this complex family. I have been surprised by some floral habit such found in Cyclanthus bipartitus Poit. (Cyclanthaceae). The unisexual flowers are arranged in separate cycles (staminate and pistillate cycles regularly alternate sometimes in partial spirals) around the spadix.
I find these types of work essential in our effort to document the biodiversity of worldwide tropical ecosystems. I strongly encourage further endeavors in this vein of expertis@ while pooling resources from a worldwide array of agencies and scientists. I think it could be one of the foundation stones toward our international efforts to protect these rich pristine ecosystems before population and industrial pressures threaten their biotic wonders. - Laurent M. Meillier, U.C. Davis Clear Lake Environmental Research Center, Lakeport, CA.
Two Field Guides Flowers of the Himalaya: A Supplement Stainton, Adam, 1998. ISBN 0-19-564415-8 (paper US$14.95) 86 pp. + 128 pp. color plates. Oxford India Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314. Desert Wildflowers of North America Taylor, Ronald J., 1998. ISBN 0-87842-376-1 (paper US$24.00) 359 pp. Mountain Press Publishing Co-, Missoula, MT 59806.
Two Field Guides Flowers of the Himalaya: A Supplement Stainton, Adam, 1998. ISBN 0-19-564415-8 (paper US$14.95) 86 pp. + 128 pp. color plates. Oxford India Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314. Desert Wildflowers of North America Taylor, Ronald J., 1998. ISBN 0-87842-376-1 (paper US$24.00) 359 pp. Mountain Press Publishing Co-, Missoula, MT 59806.- This review covers new books on the marvelous plants of two spectacular regions. Both books are mid-sized paperbacks, inexpensive but well made, intended as field guides for the casual botanist or tourist, and loaded with hundreds of color photographs and brief species descriptions arranged within family. Both books have an index. Despite the reference to flowers in their titles, both books cover trees and nonflowering plants as well.
Flowers of the Himalaya: A Supplement, by Adam Stainton, was published originally in 1988 (in hardback, I presume). It consists of species descriptions and phOtographs not included in the 1984 field guide Flowers of the Himalaya, by Oleg Polunin and Adam Stainton. The design of these two books is very similar. As in the 1984 book, the sequence of families follows the antique sYstem of Bentham and Hooker. This system, which is standard in India, will seem peculiar to American readers. Botanists may find it amusing to begin with Ranunculaceae, followed by Dilleniaceae and Magnoliaceae, and to find gymnosperms between Salicaceae and monocots (with Orchidaceae first). Will most readers care or even notice how unnatural this system is? Probably not.
Plates make up two thirds of this book. The blurb on theback flapclaims "over6OO new colourplates," which is misleading; there are about 640 color photographs on 128 plates. As in Flowers of the Himalaya, the photos are arranged in symmetric patterns, and some plates on facing pages have matched patterns. Although these patterns are attractive, they are achieved at rather high cost to the reader. Photos of closely related species frequently appear out of sequence; sometimes they even appear on non-adjacent plates. Fortunately, all photos have captions listing the species and a number keyed to the text. Most of the. photos are excellent: composition, lighting, focus, and depth of field are all good, and the characteristic features of each species are clearly shown. Unfortunately, about half of the photos in Flowers of the Himalaya: A Supplement were printed from misaligned color separations, resulting in double images. Not all photos in a plate have this problem to the same degree, indicating that the error is in the original plates. I hope these plates will be corrected before the next printing.
About half of the photos depict species described in Flowers ofthe Himalaya; the descriptions are not repeated, so this supplement is of limited use without that book. On the other hand, many of the new descriptions are Of lowland, subtropical species at the limits of their natural ranges, or exotics. This is an unusual and potentially very interesting, even important element in a field guide. I would have appreciated more details of the habitats and climates preferred by these species in the Himalaya.
Desert Wildflowers of North America, by Ronald J. Taylor, is a gorgeous field guide. The photos are excellent to spectacular, and the layout consistently makes the most of them. Many photos showing the habitat and habit of the larger plants have an inset photo of the flowers. I suspect that botanists will wish these insets were larger, but ecologists will think they are just right. The photos are printed on about 150 right-hand pages, usually 3 or 4 photos per page, with corresponding descriptions on the facing left-hand pages. More than 500 species are described. The photos and text are unusually well integrated: this is one of those rare field guides where you can read a clear description and see most of the features described right there in the photo.
Although it is clearly designed with the general public in mind, Desert Wildflowers of North America is full of natural history notes and other details that botanists and ecologists will enjoy. 'Me geographic coverage extends from Oregon south into Mexico (but species endemic to Mexico are not included). The descriptions are fairly detailed and precise, yet not overly technical; this is accomplished by omitting discussion of very similar species and groups that are hard to distinguish. Also, although there is no mention of this in the book, it appears that highly endangered species are omitted too. For instance, none of the rare desert poppies are included. These omissions may be sensible (unfortunately). General descriptions are given for all families and some genera, and when similar species are described one is described in detail, followed by the distinguishing features of the others. The families are ordered by common name, an artificial system that seems entirely appropriate for a field guide. (The only awkward thing I noted in this book is the treatment of common family names as singular nouns, as in the introduction to Aizoaceae: "Fig marigold is a large family...") Both common and scientific names appear at the top of each entry, and many names are explained.
The author of Desert Wildflowers of North America is a retired professor of botany and ecology, and it shows. There is a sympathetic note about the taxonomic difficulties presented by "Damned Yellow Composites." The back of the book contains all the tools one could hope for in a popular field guide. There is a helpful series of labeled anatomical drawings based on actual species, clearly and simply demonstrating the typical range of forms present in floral organs and leaves. There is also a substantial glossary and a very nice key to the families. 'Me introduction to the key concludes with a stern reminder that "qualifying words such as mainly, often, usually, or generally, mean what they say and should not be ignored." This professorial advice, although good, is barely necessary because most of the couplets are unqualified.
In summary: buy Flowers of the Himalaya: A Supplement if you own the 1984 book but not the 1988 version of the supplement, and you want to complete your set. For a field trip to the Himalaya, a copy of the 1984 book would be far more useful. If you have any interest in Desert Wildflowers of North America, buy it: it's a winner. - Una R. Smith, Yale University