Orchid Biology: Reviews and Perspectives. Arditti, J. and A. M. Pridgeon, eds. 1997. ISBN 07923-4516-9 (cloth US$183.00) 394 pp. Kluwer Academic Publishers. P. 0. Box 17,3300. AA Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
The series, Orchid Biology, edited by Joseph Arditti, was begun in 1977. The first four volumes were published by Cornell University Press, the fifth by Timber Press, and the sixth by Wiley Interscience. The current volume, VII, was produced by Kluwer Academic Publishers. The first six volumes were edited alone by Arditti, but volume VII was edited jointly by Arditti and Alec M. Pridgeon. In volume I Arditti stipulates an increasing need for a series of reviews on orchids to provide perspective and to cover different points of view in areas of interest. Each volume commences with a biographical sketch or reminiscence of a historical nature often involving a special person in the field of orchid study. Volume VII is no exception and begins with a lengthy, very personal autobiography of editor Arditti.
Every volume consists of a series of detailed summary articles on some phase of orchidology climaxed by a thorough reference section citing those publications mentioned in the text. In each volume the terminal article, or appendix, is one of more or less practical interest. Beginning with volume IV, each article, but not consistently, is accompanied by a glossary of technical terms used in the article.
The current volume, number VII, consists of six technical chapters, each authored by an expert (s) in the subject matter under consideration. Article one by Edward C. Yeung and Sandra K. Law discusses ovule and megagametophyte development in orchids. A reason for this treatment is that little new information has been added to the literature in recent years and they have thus attempted to summarize and synthesize the published data to date. The studies they review have categorized the pattern of ovule and embryo sac development, but fall short of providing insight into the processes themselves. They attribute this failing to the limitations of past histological methods that have, in some cases, given rise to spurious results. New methods of approach, involving studies in molecular biology, promise to unravel the mechanisms of ovule initiation and development. Illustrations are largely culled from Yeung's studies of Epidendrum ibaguense and Calypso bulbosa. The photographs are wonderfully clear and the descriptive legends illuminating and expertly presented.
Adelheid R. Kuehnle writes about the molecular biology of orchids, a fairly young area of investigation. She analyzes orchid nuclear macromolecules, i. e., nucleic acids and proteins, and proceeds, after quantifying macromolecular organization, into a discussion of phylogeny and systematics, physiology, and lastly plant breeding. Unfortunately, her literature survey ends in 1994/1995 and several recent papers by Mark Chase and others concerning orchid systematics and phylogeny from the molecular point of view are not included.
Fungi from orchid mycorrhizas by A. S. Currah, C. D. Zelmer, S. Hambleton, and K. A. Richardson extends the earlier study of Geoffrey Hadley that appeared in a previous volume of this series. The authors attempt to provide a concise summary of the methods and taxonomic information required to identify the fungal symbionts in orchid roots. They provide a list of orchid species accompanied by the names of the fungal symbionts associated with them. They outline techniques used to isolate fungi from orchid roots and rhizomes, provide a key for the identification of peloton-forming taxa of the Basidiomycotina, and a key to and descriptions of commonly occurring genera of Ascomycotina and Fungi Imperfecti. 'Me accompanying photographs of hyphae, sepatal features in some groups, peoltons, and conidia are very well executed.
Syoichi Ichihashi writes on orchid production and research in Japan. Only the first few paragraphs deal with the quantitative specifics of orchid production in Japan. Most of the chapter concerns physiological research as related to the production of the few orchid genera commonly grown for commercial purposes in Japan, namely, Cymbidium, Phalaenopsis, and Dendrobium. The research, Ichihashi records, increases in direct proportion to the pot plant production, obviously, a market generated endeavor. Research topics include growth habits, effects of minimum temperatures in winter (specifically with Cymbidium), changes in carbohydrate content during stem elongation, growth control of flowering shoots, potting mixtures and fertilization, photomorphogenesis, and photosynthesis. Most of the data are published in Japanese and for this reason Dr. Ichihashi's English discussion and summary of this information is especially valuable.
Bletilla striata, Dendrobium species, and Gastrodia elata (a mycotrophoic plant) have been and are used in Chinese herbal medicine as described by C. S. Hew, J. Arditti, and W. S. Lin in a chapter devoted to the reconciliation of Chinese and Western pharmacology. There is a brief historical introduction to Chinese herbal medicine followed by treatments concerning the uses of these plants against certain diseases and pathological conditions. The chemical constituents of the several parts used in medicine are presented. There is an extensive tabular section outlining the secondary metabolites in these three taxa, including the chemical names, activities, molecular structures, and applicable reference citations. The chapter concludes with sections on the practice of Chinese medicine, especially as it concerns alkaloids and phytoalexins. There are a few minor inconsistencies, including the statement that Bletilla has corms (which it does) followed in the next paragraph by the statement that "rhizomes are collected."
Following his chapter on orchid production and research in Japan, Syoichi Ichihashi continues with a report on micropropagation of the three genera discussed previously: Cymbidium, Phalaenopsis, and Dendrobium. Among these genera, only Cymbidium production commences with plantlets multiplied from shoot tips cultured in vitro. These shoot tips produce protocorm-like bodies that can be grown up and utilized for market production. On the contrary, in nobile-type dendrobiums, multiplication by traditional stem cuttings is the common practice. Research on micropropagation, however, is limited owing to the lack of demand. Phalaenopsis is frequently propagated using one-bud segments of the flowering stalk, but culture of flower-stalk nodes is not sufficient to meet commercial requirements for vegetative propagation. Sections cultured from leaves produced from nodal bud cultures have been grown in vitro; these develop protocorm-like bodies. Root tip culture has also been attempted with segments extracted from the tips of aerial roots from mature plants
The appendix to volume VII contains a historical review of orchid growing media by Thomas J. Sheehan. Beginning in the early 18'h century growers have grappled with different culture media in an attempt to locate the ideal substance (s). Early orchidists had no idea of the natural habitats of orchids in the tropics; their blundering with different media and growing conditions led to the deaths of many thousands of imported orchids in the early days of orchid culture. Sheehan's treatment is divided into different eras during which various media were used leading to trials of inorganic materials that are in place today. Orchids will grow in any medium mixture providing the grower customizes his/her watering and fertilizing regimes, but the "ideal" culture medium is still a distant goal today. Dr. Sheehan makes a special point of instructing readers that the plural of "medium" is "media," but he erroneously states that "mediums" is inaccurate, which it definitely is not.
A word is in order about the pictures of persons to whom this book is dedicated, i. e., Calaway H. Dodson, Bertil Kullenberg, and Gunnar Seidenfaden. These photographs are so poor as to make the personalities virtually unrecognizable. On a positive note, the reference citations are very good (in contrast to those in volume V), accurate and consistent. I detect the deft hand here of coeditor Alec Pridgeon.
William Louis Stern, Department of Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-8526.
9th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration White, James J. and Lugene B. Bruno, 1998. ISBN 0-913196-64-9 (paper US$25.00) 191 pp. Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.
If you have tried to draw plants from life you may agree with me. Plants are a damnable nuisance! Forget about plants being sessile, much less simple. When you try to illustrate them you find that they move, they droop, they sway. They suddenly become more dimensional that you ever suspected. What looked like a simple leaf attachment becomes a complex suite of visual characters; colors, angles, widths, shading, and textures. Details such as glands, lenticels, and trichomes tempt your eye from the grandeur of form and phyllotaxy. How to balance it all? How to show the plant (or fungus for that matter) in a light that illustrates the organism as a living object?
How does one reflect the profoundly expressive elements of plant design without resorting to visual tricks? How does one simplify yet avoid stylizing the image? How, above all, to create a scientific document? The challenges of botanical illustration are daunting. Botanical art and illustration require a skilled eye not grown jaded by beauty as well as a steady hand accustomed to subtleties of form, pigment and line. Add the requirement of huge heaps of patience and it seems no wonder that the illustrators featured in this exhibition are in their fourth decade of life or older. Some kinds of training, indeed some sorts of virtuosity, come with age. If virtuosity (and there's plenty of it in these exquisite illustrations) is to blame for exaggerated expression, then so be it. My personal taste leans toward understated line drawings such as those of Cathy Pasquale. To me, they epitomize scientific botanical drawing. But scientifically informative details can emerge from more impressionistically rendered works, such as the spadices of Arisaema painted by Joanna Langhorne. The watercolor radishes on the page facing hers are more a lovely image for a well appointed kitchen, and the lushly rendered binomials of Cyranthus and Cotyledon on the following pages ... well ... gild the lily.
But I don't mean to criticize when I am in awe of each of the artists featured in this volume. As to its being the 9th international exhibition, long may it live! To bring botanical images to a hungry public is a high service indeed. To document said images as the Hunt Institute has so lovingly done, is truly praiseworthy.
- Samuel Hammer, College of General Studies, Boston University.