World Checklist and Bibliography of Conifers Farjon, Aijos, 1998. ISBN 1-900347-54-7 (softback, E 30.00) 298 pages, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK.
Aijos Farjon is Curator of Gymnosperms at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the author of several books and papers on the taxonomy of conifers, in particular Pinaceae and Cupressaceae. The scope of this "World Checklist" is limited to the extant conifers, and thus excludes the ginkgo, cycads, the three gnetalean genera, and all taxa known only from fossils. The checklist includes 8 families, 68 genera, 629 species, 176 infraspecific taxa, 3225 (!) synonyms, and 73 names of uncertain application. Accepted families, genera, and species are arranged alphabetically. Each family is given a page or two Of introductory text, briefly covering generic diversity, geographic distribution, ecology, fossil history, and selected references. Likewise, each genus is accompanied by a summary paragraph. Every accepted name includes a complete citation of the authority and place of publication, growth form (decumbent shrub, shrub, tree), and the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) status. Geographic distribution is summarized in two ways: in narrative form and in coded form using a scheme published by the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases (DWG). It is unfortunate that the IUCN "criteria codes" and the TDWG numerical coding for geographic areas are not included in the text. It would not have taken more than a page or two to add these to the introduction. I refer the reader to <http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/iucnredlists/criteria.htm> and <http://www.brit.org/ft/eir.htm> for assistance in deciphering these codes.
It is instructive to compare Farjon's treatment of Pinus with a concurrently published classification (Price, Liston, and Strauss, 1998). Farjon recognizes 108 species, while Price et al. recognize 111. These similar numbers hide a larger number of disagreements. There are respectively seven and ten species that are accepted in one list but not the other. With one exception, the "missing" species can be found as synonyms or infraspecific taxa, and thus can be considered examples of taxonomic differences of opinion. The exception is Farjon's acceptance of Pinus hakkodensis as a species. It has long been recognized (cf. Ohwi, 1965) as a hybrid between P. pumila and P. parviflora, and consequently is not included in Price et al. On the other hand, I find that Farjon's treatment of the Mexican pinyon pines (following Farjon and Styles, 1997) is more satisfactory than that of Price et al.
A unique and valuable feature of this checklist is the exhaustive synonymy. Each synonym is listed twice, first under the accepted name, and again in an alphabetical list (with designation of the appropriate accepted name) at the end of each genus. Compiling the synonymy was no small task. For example, Pinus mugo, with 3 recognized subspecies, has ca. 175 synonyms. Remarkably, this massive nomenclatural synthesis resulted in only one new combination, Larix griffithii var. speciosa.
An unadvertised bonus is the line drawings representing 26 conifer genera. These include reproductions from a variety of sources in addition to several excellent original drawings by the author and others. A particular effort has been made to include illustrations of rare and monotypic genera of conifers. Finding a particular illustration can be a challenge, as they are often far-removed from the corresponding text of the genus, and are not included in the table of contents or index.
Farjon writes that "few other major plant groups enjoy so much attention in the literature." Thus, by necessity, the "Bibliography of Conifers" is extremely selective, and only ca. 270 references are cited. Persons interested in a more comprehensive bibliography are referred to Farjon (1990) which includes 2130 references. However, the author notes that he already has on file an additional 800 titles, and he estimates that there could be over 4500 references relevant to the taxonomy of conifers! Considering that there are only 629 species, this is a remarkable figure.
Two major trends in contemporary plant systematics appear to be heading in opposite directions. One is the production of regional and global checklists of plant names. These initiatives share a common goal: to provide an authoritative and accessible index to plant diversity. The Kew-based World Checklist and Bibliography series (the present volume is the third to appear) is one of five international checklist Programs described in the preface. In addition, a large number of regional efforts are underway. These efforts share an interest in nomenclatural stability, although the large number of concurrent efforts guarantees some divergence of taxonomic opinion.
At the same time, an increasing number of plant systematists are conducting DNA sequence-based studies employing cladistic methodology. One consequence of these phylogenetic studies is the taxonomic re-evaluation of hundreds of plant groups. Until recently, many (but not all) systematists were reluctant to make nomenclatural changes based on their molecular results. However, as phylogenetic hypotheses based on multiple molecular (as well as morphological) data sources become available for more and more taxa, systematists appear to be losing their reticence about making the pertinent nomenclatural changes. I fear that the efforts toward nomenclatural stability, as exemplified by this book, may be inundated by a tsunami of name changes propelled by current phylogenetic studies. Despite this concern, well executed checklists - as exemplified here - remain an essential enterprise in the ongoing efforts to document global biological diversity.
- Aaron Liston, Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis
I thank Nir Gil-ad for his helpful comments.
Farjon, A. 1990. A bibliography of conifers. Regnum Vegetabile Vol. 122. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Germany'
Fadon, A. and B. T. Styles. 1997. Pinus (Pinaceae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 75. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
Ohwi, J. 1965. Flora of Japan (in English). F. G. Meyer and E. H. Walker (eds.). Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Price, R. A., A. Liston, and S. H. Strauss. 1998. Phylogeny and systematics of Pinus. In D. M. Richardson (ed.), Ecology and biogeography of Pinus, pp. 49-68. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Sierra Nevada Wildflowers Horn, Elizabeth L., 1998. ISBN 0-87842-388-5 (Paperback U.S. $16.00) 225 pp Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1301 S. Third Street W., P.O. Box 2399, Missoula, Montana 59806.
This is a lovely little guide to the wonderful flora of the Sierra Nevada range. The author displays an intimate familiarity with the Sieffas and the wildflowers that grow there. The book begins with a capsule overview of Sierra Nevada geography, geology and ecological zones. The plant community descriptions are concise and accurate and are accompanied by several nice habitat photos. There is also a brief treatise on the problems associated with common names and the importance of using scientific names. Included in the back of the book is a rudimentary glossary along with some illustrated botanical terms. Unexpected in a wildflower guide but nonetheless welcome is an easy key and illustrated guide to identifying Sierran conifers.
7be bulk of the book is, of course, the descriptions and photos of the wildflowers. Wildflower here is interpreted to include some shrubs and even a few trees (mountain dogwood; Joshua tree). The descriptions are on evennumbered pages with associated photos placed on facing pages. This convenient layout seems to be a consistent feature of Mountain Press books, as it was also noted in a review by Una Smith of another of their wildflower guides in the Winter 1998 PSB. Plants are arranged alphabetically by scientific name within common family name. Nomenclature follows the Jepson Manual (Hickman 1993). Each new family section begins with a brief description of the family, including its distribution, approximate number of species and general characteristics. In a nice touch for the layman, Hom includes the names of familiar species within the family having ornamental, medicinal or agricultural importance. The species descriptions generally include distinctive plant characters and often habitat information. Bloom periods are frequently (but not consistently) listed. Hom often includes bonus information about a plant: how humans use it, who first collected it, or perhaps the derivation of its name.
Any popular guide can illustrate only a fraction of the plants present in a particular area. For the most part, Hom has chosen a fine variety of Sierran wildflowers; most Of my favorites (and I have many) are there. She has included representatives of a few more difficult and speciose genera such as Ceanothus, Eriogonum, Lupinus and Potentilla (all with 4 species pictured) which will be difficult to identify by the descriptions and photos alone. She has also included one species each of Ericameria and Chrysothamnus, although Jepson lists 7 and 6 species respectively of these genera in the Sierra. These last two taxa are notoriously difficult even for trained botanists and are considered by some authors to be congeneric (Nesom and Baird 1993; Anderson 1995). A word of caution about hasty identifications within these difficult groups might be in order for the casual user.
The photographs themselves are virtually all by the author and range from good to excellent in terms of their usefulness for plant identification. Quite a few are accompanied by insets showing some additional aspect of the plant (e.g. fruit, flower) or a related species. There are a few photos that provide close-up details. I noted only two cases where the photos were of almost no value for identification(Yucca brevifolia and Artemisia tridentata); not bad for nearly 300 photographs. One tiny lapse after her careful warning about common names is the identification of sky pilot, rather than Polemonium eximium, as a Sierran endemic. The common name is also applied to a different species (P. viscosissimum) in the Rocky Mountains. This is a perfect example of why many botanists abhor common names! But this is nitpicking in a popular guide, especially one so well done. A list of selected references is thoughtfully provided; I wish more popular guides would do so. Last but not least, Hom has avoided the cumbersome and annoying practice of separating common and scientific names into separate indices; a single index saves time and paper. I asked to review this book because I thought it might be a good way to vicariously revisit the mountains I love and miss so much. I was not disappointed. If you are looking for a good popular guide to the wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada for yourself or as a gift, Hom's book is a beauty.
- Jan Barber, Department of Botany, The University of Texas, Austin 78713
Anderson, L.C. 1995. The Chrysothamnus-Ericameria connection (Asteraceae). Great Basin Nat. 55: 84-88.
Hickman, J.C., ed. 1993. The Jepson Manual: higher plants of California. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley.
Nesom, G.L. and G.I. Baird. 1993. Completion of Ericameria Asteraceae Astereae diminution of Chrysothamnus. Phytologia 75: 74-93.