A Dictionary of Natural Products Hocking, George Macdonald, 1998. ISBN 0-937548-31-6 (cloth US $139.50). 994 pp., Plexus Publishing, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055.
And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew, That one small head could carry all he knew.
- Oliver Goldsmith
The author of this awesome compendium, now well over ninety and Professor Emeritus of Pharmacognosy at Auburn University, posited seven quotations on his dedicatory page ("To my parents"), most of these relating to the plight of a compiler. Upon reading these, having thumbed through the entire text (comprising some 994 pages, these containing an estimated 18,000 entries covering everything from Aalbium to Zypresse, and fully documented with 2,798 numbered references), I felt compelled to introduce this review with a quotation from my own store of reading, this from Oliver Goldsmith's, 'The Deserted Village"; at least that particular quotational flick came to the fore after searching through Hocking's seemingly flawless text.
This dictionary is exceedingly terse; indeed, I calculate that the text would have been twice its size had not the author used I 000 or more abbreviations in his tellings, all of these conveniently listed at the beginning of his tome. And there are no formal figures or illustrations! Our author is not out to entertain or bedazzle, rather he aims to instruct. Clearly the man viewed this compilation as part of his bones.
The book is said to be "...a second edition of a reference work formerly titled "Dictionary of Terms in Pharmacognosy and Other Divisions of Economic Botany", this first published in 1955. But think you not that the 43 year gap is devoid of additional compilations. Entry after entry after entry attests to Hocking's dedication and devotion to his endeavor. Thus one finds under Larrea tridentata, cross referenced as creosote, numerous references to its use by gringos, Hispanics and native Indians, the last line reading, "; much branched shrub, sometimes of great age (17,000 yrs.; Mojave Desert)." The author clearly has the kind of head referred to in my quotation.
And the text is timely, what with the layman's current preoccupation with alternative medicine, herbal remedies (vs. synthetic medicines) and the like, this instructively discussed by Relman (1998) in a recent issue of THE NEW REPUBLIC. Relman reviewed eight of the texts on such subjects by the guru of the field, Andrew Weil, M.D. (I cant help but add as an aside that Weil's caricature, which adorns the cover of the said journal could easily be taken as that of Prof. James Henrickson, California State University, Los Angeles; indeed, the sketch of Weil on its inner pages by Vint Lawrence might just as well be my friend Jim, especially as portrayed in a fit of taxonomic pique).
Hocking's text should prove useful in attempting to digest the various herbal offerings of this day and age, as well as those from the zoological field; he covers all pharmacological topics, including everything from abalones (gastropods) to zymozan (a protein-carbohydrate complex found in yeast cells). Even the mineral world is included, for example, bentonite, said to be a "native colloidal hydrated aluminum silicate" and used in "mud baths, beauty clays, to clarify wines, etc."
I have never met the author, Prof. Hocking, but I feel that he is a comrade in arms, endowed with what counts in the best of us: love for his field of interest, and a desire to leave mankind better off for his endeavours. (One of his seven quotes alluded to in the above reads, He only deserves to be remembered by posterity who treasures up and preserves the history of his ancestors.) In my opinion this man, as an informed writer, rises higher than most, as attested to by his appreciation of taxonomic botany and its utility in providing scientific names. And what a perfectionist proof reader he must be; after nearly two weeks of hopeful browsing I was unable to detect a spelling error, even in the abbreviations.
My awe of the author is not only textual, it is buoyed up by something more than the finished product: how he came to sculpt his terseness. A few years ago Prof. Hocking opted to leave his extensive research notes, etc-, accumulated over a lifetime, those that formed the basis of his Dictionary, to the Plant Resources Center (PRC) at the University of Texas, Austin. Most every entry in his remarkable compendium has a manila folder, the tabs yellowed with age and tattered with use. Within each of the folders is a plethora of data and, what else, a nest of notes and miscellany having to do with anything that added interest to the taxon or thing concerned. For example, within the folder labeled Cornus I noted 39 items, these ranging from Geiger's 1836 account of how to extract coming from Dogwood bark, to an USDA directive (dated 1942) outlining the need of Dogwood for Mill Shuttles, including personal photographs from the 1950s showing stacks of Dogwood in the sawmills for that purpose, not to mention the sundry newspaper articles having to do with the genus, nor the postcards and magazine clippings relating to the group concerned. Yet other folders yielded a similar array, and one can only guess at the extraordinary amount of time consumed in this accumulation.
Individuals interested in economic or systematic botany ought to have this book on their shelves within easy reach. It is first of all a reference book, perhaps the best in its field, to judge from my perusal of likely competitors. I cannot praise the book enough, nor express to its author the profound respect I have for his lifelong efforts in this endeavour. But I suspect the author knows his worth and that of his text. Love of ones work and sustained dedication produce such phenomena.
- Billie L. Turner, Dept. Integrative Biol., The University Of Texas, Austin, TX 78713.
Relman, A. S. 1998, A trip to Stonesville. The New Republic (issue 4,378), 14 Dec.
Plants and Society Levetin, Estelle McMahon, Karen, 1998 ISBN 0-697-34552-1 477 pp, Second Edition. WCB McGraw-Hill, 2460 Kerper Boulevard, Dubuque, Iowa 52001.
Plants and Society is a remarkable compilation of botanical disciplines. The textbook's audience is the university freshman or sophomore enrolled in an introductory class in botany or seeking to satisfy a science requirement. The authors have written this book hoping to offset the decline in enrollment to botanical courses. Is the book multidisciplinary approach successful in this inspiration?
Plants and Society offers a great flexibility in course design. The textbook is organized into 25 chapters grouped in 7 units. The first two units outline the basic tenants of plant science such as reproduction, taxonomy, physiology and genetics. The next three units stress the relationships between humans and plants in terms of medicinal, alimentary and economic uses. 'Men a distinctive unit is consecrated to the fungi describing their distinctive biology, their beneficial and negative impacts upon the human and biological environments. The last unit emphasizes ecological principles such as the concepts of ecosystem, niche, succession and biogeochemical cycles. World biomes, the strategy of extractive reserves are also reviewed in the last unit.
Each chapter starts with an outline. Key terms are in bold face throughout the text. The chapter ends with a concept quiz, a section's summary, review questions and suggests further readings. Interspersed in the chapters are "Closer Look" essays expanding the major themes presented in the main text. The book ends with a comprehensive glossary two appendices and an index. Educators might be interested to purchase the accompanying instructor's manual which has been revised as well. For those interested by color illustrations they might be slightly deceived, photographs are in black and white and graphics toned between different shades of green and grays. I wish scales would be included in the photomicrographs of the ultrastructural components of a plant cell for example. In other cases graphics would be enhanced if boldface was used. The graphic illustrating the various phases of mitosis could have benefited from bold facing. Dr. Levetin and McMahon might want to include an analysis of the differences between meiosis and mitosis in future editions. In some instance graphics do not link very well with the text. How do we get a protein from the linkages of amino acids? More attention could have been brought upon some of the graphics. The relationship between the electromagnetic and the visible light spectra is not clear. Rare spelling errors were noticed throughout the text. The multidisciplinary approach could sometimes dangerously oversimplify. Algae and fungi were included in the diversity of plant life chapter, both of those organisms belong to a different kingdom than Planta. In other cases the chapter had a different title in the outline compared to the printed topic in the succeeding pages (Chapter 10: Human Nutrition/ Starchy Staples, publishing error probable). I wish that the unit and chapter numbers would be printed at the top of the pages. l was also surprised by the treatment of some topics in the "Closer Look" sections compared to the chapter's theme. Forensic Botany was presented in an area of the book dealing with world agriculture! Some chapter titles would surely benefit from a revision.
The authors have successfully addressed some concerns facing the earth's biotic community at the end of this millennium. Imbalance in the nitrogen cycle, shaded coffee plantations, the Kyoto protocol are among some of the issues brushed upon by the authors. The concept of sustainable agriculture could have gained of an in depth treatment. Controversial topics such the use of marihuana medicinal purpose or the legal culpability of the tobacco industry for the medical expenses of afflicted smokers were presented in the main text in an objective manner. Chapter 20 is solely devoted to psychoactive plants. I am not sure why absinthe is treated in a subsequent chapter dealing with beverages and foods from fungi (Chapter 23).
Plants and Society is a bold attempt to encompass the botanical science in a multidisciplinary, up to date approach. It will be a valuable reference for educators interested to draw freshman and sophomore to the plant science field. 'Me organization and presentation of the materials could be enhanced. A multidisciplinary approach to plant science is a complex endeavor. Motivating young scientists to this field is important.. Plants will surely continue to profoundly affect the earth and its inhabitants, the authors have shown a dedication to this educational journey.
- Laurent M. Meillier, U.C. Davis Clear Lake Environmental Research Center, Lakeport, CA.
Tropical Fruits Nakasone, H., and Paull, R.E., 1998. ISBN 0-85199-254-4 (cloth US $55.00) 445pp. Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016.
- Tropical Fruits by H. Y. Nakasone and R. E. Paul comes as volume 7 in the Crop Production Science in Horticulture series from CAB International. The text was begun and extensively developed by Nakasone, with Paul playing a greater role upon Nakasone's illness and death. The series "examines economically important horticultural crops selected from the major production systems in temperate, subtropical and tropical climatic areas" (frontpiece), and this volume fits this scheme well.
One might expect that a book in an academic series with a title such as Crop Production Science in Horticulture might simply be another collection of loosely connected papers, not peer reviewed. Instead this volume comes as a very pleasant surprise: it thoroughly covers topics in the area of tropical fruits concisely and lucidly. Information is covered from basic issues of defining the tropics to specifics about cultivars of particular species of tropical fruits. All of this is written in a lucid style which should be accessible for seasoned professionals and newly interested amateurs alike.
Besides the usual introductory materials and reference chapter, Tropical Fruit includes with several pages of excellent color plates illustrating fruits, methods of their production and handling, and some diseases affecting the fruits. It is only unfortunate that more such images are not included. After the color plates come chapters on the Tropics, soils in the Tropics, and cultivation and postharvest handling.
After that, various fruits are considered, with line drawings of many species. Fruits are considered singly or in logically arranged groups, based usually on geography or taxonomy. For example, the mango (Mangifera indica L.; Anacardiaceae) receives its own chapter while the various fruits from the genera Annona and Rollinia (both Annonaceae) are grouped in one chapter.
Each chapter includes a brief introduction to the fruit or fruits and then considers a full range of information from taxonomy, origins, and distribution to ecological requirements, horticultural characteristics and ultimate utilization. The species coverage is excellent for a basic textbook on the subject of tropical fruit. A more advanced book might include other species such as the Ice Cream beans of South America (Inga; Fabaceae). For such information, there are many books which deal with more species but which do not present as much information for cultivation. Alternatively, one could turn to the publications of the California Rare Fruit Growers or the Florida Rare Fruit Council.
Tropical Fruits presents an excellent range of information with outstanding clarity and completeness. These properties make it a valuable resource for beginners and amateur growers as well as for academics and professionals. There are not as many color pictures illustrating the various fruit as are to be found in books such as Cooking with Exotic Fruits and Vegetables by Grigson and Knox (Henry Holt), so that beginning students might need supplementation to help them visualize this material. Nevertheless, this book would be wholly appropriate for the reading list of an introductory class in horticulture, ad would be useful even on the supplemental reading list for an introductory botany class. It is highly recommended.
- Douglas Darnowski, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana IL 61801