Mistletoes of Africa Polhill, Roger, & Wiens, Delbert, 1998. ISBN: 1-900347-56-3 (cloth £70.00) The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK- This book presents the first account in one volume of all the mistletoes (parasitic plants in the families Loranthaceae and Viscaceae) that occur in Africa. This group of plants, according to the treatment adopted in this volume, comprise 280 species in 24 genera (233 species in 21 genera of Loranthaceae and 47 species in three genera of the Viscaceae). Neither family is centred in Africa (with only about 24% of Loranthaceae and 10% of Viscaceae occurring here), but many species are widespread, and some have economic importance, mainly negatively - as pests of plantation crops - but also positively - as importance sources of medicine (especially in West Africa).
Two thirds of the pages in the book are devoted to thorough descriptions of the species, including taxonomic keys for distinguishing between the two families, and identifying genera and species. There are distribution maps for almost all species, clear sketches illustrating plant parts for selected species, and superb close-up color photographs for most species. There is also a 42-page catalogue of the specimens examined in compiling the account, and a concise description of the systematic conventions that were followed.
The book is very largely a systematic treatise, and its main value lies therein. There are, however, also short essays on: the parasitic habitat; origins and evolution of the two families; aspects of comparative morphology, pollination mechanisms; generic classification; biogeography; and the economic importance of mistletoes. The level of coverage in these accounts is very uneven, ranging from extremely comprehensive and detailed (for pollination mechanisms) to superficial (e.g. economic importance). I found the seven pages dealing with biogeography more confusing that enlightening; Table 10 and its interpretation, using White's Vegetation map of Africa as basis, is inadequate. There is now considerable scope for a comprehensive review of the biogeography of African mistletoes. The ecological evidence reviewed here supports the notion that species richness of mistletoes is primarily determined by nutrient status of the biome, and secondarily by the nitrogen status of the preferred hosts.
I enjoyed reading this book and am confident that it will be THE essential reference on the systematics African mistletoes for decades to come. There are countless opportunities for ecologists to draw on this rich information base to improve our understanding of why these plants occur where they do and how they interact with other elements of the biota. —David M. Richardson, Institute for Plant Conservation, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Proceedings of the Symposium 'Taxonomy, Evolution and Classification of Lichens and Related Fungi' Wedin, M., T. Tonsberg, and D. H. Brown, eds., 1998. ISBN 0-9523049-7-X (paper £10) The Lichenologist, c/o Academic Press, Ltd., 24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DX, UK- Every decade or so (sometimes at shorter intervals) the lichenological community puts forth a volume that represents the collective ideas of its diverse and far-flung members. 'Me volumes are usually edited by several of the leading lichenologists and they reflect the spectrum of current research in the discipline. Inevitably the volumes become minor classics, read again and again by newcomers to the field, and consulted by experts and teachers as a reference to state-of-the-art lichenology. The volumes represent a sort of treasure trove, summarizing old concepts and introducing new ideas. Of course, they are replete with burgeoning bibliographies. The latest collection, which was published by the British Lichen Society in collaboration with the Linnean Society of London, carries on in the tradition of its predecessors. Over twenty authors contributed to this volume, bringing with them a portfolio full of ideas about the evolution, phylogeny, and taxonomy of lichenized fungi. The fifteen papers are a well balanced mix of review and current research. A balance is struck as well between molecular and morphological approaches indeed lichenology can be considered a pioneer in its reconciliation of these two elements-lichens are such difficult organisms to understand, we need all the characters we can get our hands on! The editors have chosen their contributors with care, although it should be noted that there are no North American authors included in the volume. The topics are varied, and questions of dispersal, nomenclature, photobionts, species concepts, and fungal ontogeny are among the many subjects that were considered during the Symposium. I was particularly drawn to a critique by Leif Tibell, "Practice and Prejudice in Lichen Classification," in which many of the other papers were put into perspective. Tibell's paper discussed lichenology within an historical framework, but his was not the only paper that used an historical approach.
Lichenologists are to be commended for recalling that even the sharpest new tools require a context in which to use them. We are coming to see that lichen taxonomy is in large part the history of lichen taxonomy. By considering history, we are able to critique our own intellectual activities in the light of those of our lichenological predecessors. The Symposium for which this volume was produced embraced history by housing itself in the rooms of the Linnean Society of London. By doing so, the participants put themselves quite literally into the stream of intellectual history. 'Mis volume will continue to provide a useful resource for botanists for years to come. —Samuel Hammer, College of General Studies, Boston University
Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas Diggs, George, Barney Lipscomb, Robert O'Kennon, Linny Heagy (Illustrator) 1999. ISBN 1-889878-01-4 (cloth $US 89.95, shipping $7.50, taxes not included ). Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 509 Pecan St., Fort Worth, Texas 76102-4060. - This voluminous flora has a four inch spine and weighs nearly eight pounds. It is obviously not a field manual, nor designed for bedtime perusal. It is, however, a whale-of-a-purchase, the 320 square inch volume containing 1626 pages of very readable, magnificently orchestrated, well written, wonderfully edited text, including slanted keys to its 2,273 species, each accompanied by line drawings incorporated from 225 or more sources, all of the latter duly acknowledged. Additionally, the tome contains 174 beautiful color photographs from across the Lone Star State. It is truly a remarkable production and is certain to be a perennial best seller across the states of Texas and Oklahoma, among professionally oriented botanists and amateurs alike. Only 3,000 copies were printed of this first edition. I predict that a second printing will be necessary within a year or less, there being over 3,000 plant enthusiasts in the Native Plant Society of Texas alone, nearly all of whom will surely wish a copy since there is nothing comparable for the state at the present time.
The Flora of North Central Texas is said to cover 'about 46 percent of the species known for Texas', based upon a compilation of 5,524 species by Hatch et al. (1990). This is a rather surprising statement, considering that the region covers only about one fourth of the area of the state, but understandable if one recognizes that the area concerned more or less straddles the ecotonal region of the Temperate Deciduous Forest of eastern Texas and the Grasslands of central Texas. In any case, the Flora covers a region about the size of the state of Kentucky, including the environs of Austin, Texas, a very thoroughly collected area containing numerous outlier populations from the more southern and far western regions of Texas, not likely to be found much north of the Austin area.
The text (as part of BRIT'S Bot. Misc. of Sida, no. 16) was formally edited by the indefatigable Barney L. Lipscomb, and presumably orchestrated by BRIT'S Design Consultant, Linny Heagy (so designated on the title page, imagine such!); this duo is surely deserving of some formal honor, if not substantial salary increase.
Of course, any orchestration of this magnitude is certain to depend upon the talents of numerous orchestrants: in this production, major contributions are reportedly rendered by George Diggs, Barney Lipscomb and Robert O'Kennon, pictured as an editorial threesome on the dust jacket. The 75 pages of useful information relating to the past history and ecology of the area concerned, along with other helpful insights, must have been their chorales, albeit singing as a unit. No less important, if taken together, were the systematic performances of the 40 or more experts from across the nation who contributed to this or that taxonomic treatment, all appropriately listed in the book's Acknowledgments.
One of the more praiseworthy portions of this 'local' flora is the list of references contained in its LITERATURE CITED: 66 pages encompassing 1600 or more fully cited references, including everything from alpha taxonomy to omega systematics (meaning DNA analysis), not to mention ethnobotany, pollination biology and articles of a similar ilk. The citations are all included in the text itself under the species or genera to which they relate. While a few pertinent references are missed, the index is remarkable for what it contains, some of these up to the year 1998 (or just before press time).
The Flora is dedicated to the late Lloyd Shinners and his one time student, William Mahler. And appropriately so. The two are very unlike, both as to temperament, background and professional interests. I suspect that the student did more to improve subsequent editions of Shinner's (1958) original or seminal text, Spring Flora of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Texas, than the original author might have liked to admit. The seminal edition was a rather shabby production: 541 mimeographed looseleaf pages replete with typos and bound with a plastic looseleaf spine. Being one of Shinners' earliest graduate students (masters degree 1949), I knew the man well: he was a taxonomic and intellectual dynamo, as discussed in more detail elsewhere (Turner 1998). Lloyd asked that I review his seminal text, and I did (Turner 1958). I thought my review was very positive, but Lloyd did not read it that way. Reading this over today, I can see that I praised the man, rather than his text! And praise he should have, attempting such an enterprise without assistance, in mostly ill health and carrying on a stream of argumentative correspondence with this or that professional peer, not to mention his teaching and curatorial activities, Lloyd was the closest thing to a one-man band that I have ever met.
As already noted in the above, the Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas is more like a symphony, Beethoven's Ninth perhaps (my favorite). From its introduction (first movements), through its various taxonomic orchestrations, to its 15 appendices on matters relating to cladistics and classification, the reader who listens to his perusals of this flora most stand in awe at the performance rendered.
According to information presented in the present text, a companion volume, an Illustrated Flora of Eastern Texas, will soon follow. In short, the great state of Texas, which once held the distinction as having the fewest floristic works of any state in the Union, is now likely to have some of the best, rivaling those of the recently published, and well known, Jepson's flora of California, or the yet more recent, Steyermark's Flora of Missouri (Yatskievych 1999, revised ed.)
After the above extollments, one must ask the question, aren't there any negatives? A few, perhaps; for example, there are no distributional maps such as adorn the most recent similar floras of this or that state. But inclusion of 2,223 maps for the region concerned would have been a major undertaking, not to mention the likelihood that it would have added a pound or two to the already heavy volume.
Finally, I can't help but add that the greatest thing to happen to floristic botany in Texas over the past 20 years has been the development in Fort Worth of BRIT, especially the appointment of Sy Sohmer as its first Director. His imaginative vision and ability to bear fruit from such vision is truly remarkable. No doubt the patrons of that organization, especially its major financial benefactors appropriately listed in the text itself, are also responsible for its success: nothing much comes out of marginal budgets except deficits, hope and frustration. —Billie L. Turner, Dept. of Integrative Biology, Univ. of Texas, Austin,TX 78713
Hatch,S.L., K.N. Gandhi and L.E. Brown. 1990. Checklist of the vascular plants of Texas. Texas Agric. Exptl. Sta. Misc. Publ. 1655: 1-158.
Shinners, L. H. 1958 . Spring Flora of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, Texas. Published and sold by the author (spiral plastic binding of 541 looseleaf pp.; priced at $5.75).
Turner, B.L. 1958 (1959). Review of the Spring Flora of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, Texas. Southwestern Naturalist 3: 238-239.
Turner, B. L. 1998. Plant systematics: beginnings and endings. Aliso 17: 189-200.
Yatskievych, G. 1999. Steyermark's Flora of Missouri, Vol. 1: l991. Missouri Dept Conservation, in cooperation with Missouri Bot. Gard., St. Louis, Mo.