Páramos: A checklist of plant diversity, geographical distribution, and botanical literature Luteyn, James L. 1999. ISBN 0-89327-427-5 (cloth, no price given). Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden 84: i-xv and 1-278. Six color plates. New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, New York 10458-5126—In the lowland tropics, biotic diversity is usually overwhelming and the complexity of interactions always exceeds our imagination. But when we climb high mountains (yes, sometimes we may feel rather stupid staying in such a cold environment so close to the equator), biology becomes more simple again. We are in the tropical alpine zone or, as it is called in the Neotropics, páramos. In the publication under review, páramos are defined as high altitude landscapes found above continuous forests line and below the permanent snowline of the northern Andes of South America and adjacent southern Central America. After several partial attempts to describe flora and vegetation of the páramos (Balslev & Luteyn 1992, Monasterio 1980, Rundel et al. 1994), the time was ripe to complete an authoritative and Ôcomplete' plant checklist and botanical bibliography for this biotic zone.
The book includes the family, genus, authority, pertinent synonymy, and geographical and altitudinal ranges for each of the 3399 vascular and 1298 nonvascular páramo plant species. (Páramos have the richest high-mountain flora in the world.) It also gives the country, proper name, maximum altitude, latitude and longitude, political subdivisions, and notes for approximately 2100 páramo localities in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. Full literature citations are provided for more than 1570 botanical references. An extensive introduction covers páramo climate, soils, plant growth forms, and impacts of burning and grazing. Many of the black-and-white photos illustrating the book were taken by one of the early students of páramos, José Cuatrecasas.
The checklist, gazetteer, and bibliography will be extremely helpful for all botanists and ecologists working in this fascinating life zone. Only a very few species are not on the list (e.g., Bocconia frutescens, Centropogon valerii, and Monnina sylvatica of Costa Rican páramos or Calceolaria stricta and Ciclospermum [Apium] leptophyllum of Venezuelan páramos). Also, only a very few relevant references are missing (Alfaro and Gamboa 1999, Kapelle 1996, Llano 1990, Manara 1996).—Marcel Rejmánek, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
Trees of the Central Hardwood Forests of North America Leopold, D. J., W. C. McComb and R. N. Muller, 1998. ISBN 0-88192-406-7 (cloth US$49.95). 469 pp. Timber Press, 133 S.W. Second Ave., Suite 450, Portland, OR 97204-3527.—I always look forward to my first reading of a new tree book with a certain eagerness. What new wrinkles will it bring to a literary (sometimes) tradition going back more than a century and covering every hectare of North America and each native species with numerous, overlapping, descriptive roofs of different sizes and thicknesses? I was especially curious about how well the nontraditional phytosociologically rather than politically defined region covered by this book would work as a framework for tree presentations. The region covered is nearly the same as the sum of six of Braun's (1950) forest regions (cited in the bibliography but not referenced in the text): mixed mesophytic, western mesophytic, oak-hickory, oak-chestnut (here called Appalachian oak in deference to the disappearance of chestnut as a canopy species), beech-maple, and maple basswood. The most significant departure from Braun's regions is the unexplained addition of portions of her hemlock-white pine-northern hardwoods region (also called northern mixed forest or Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest) in southern Ontario and Quebec. This addition is not justified by either species distributions or community associations. The six forest regions and the physiographic regions that they occupy are given a fairly extensive treatment in twenty pages of the introduction, but they are dropped after that. It would have been an innovative follow-through on the organizing premise of the book to have explicitly addressed the forest associations for each species when describing its habitat and range.
That this book covers a phytosociologically rather than phytogeographically defined region is emphasized by the fact that only about 10% of the approximately 200 native species covered have range limits approximating those of the book and another 10% are embedded in one corner or another of it. Almost 80% of the species have ranges that extend well beyond the chosen boundaries or even fall mostly outside of them. Like many other tree books, then, this one is useful beyond its stated borders, better somewhat northward or westward, perhaps, than southward, due to the numerous additional species of the coastal plain. Oddly, 14 of the native species of the region were missed out and another 4 that occur within 50 km of the region were also omitted, although several others were given brief mention. All of these missed trees have very restricted distributions in the central hardwood forests, but that didn't block the inclusion of many other species with similar restrictions.
All told, some 266 species are given full or brief descriptions, including 53 foreign trees and 8 North American species from outside the region. A full treatment includes ample descriptions of morphological characteristics, ecology, uses, and cultivation, a range map (redrawn from Little's Atlas, 1971, 1976), black and white photos of trunks, twigs, leaves, and fruits, and color photos. Not all species have all of these elements: 18 of the main entry species are without any illustrations, and one (Tsuga caroliniana) lacks a range map. Eight foreign trees are given a full treatment. With the exception of Morus alba and Populus alba, these are the ones that are the sole species of their genera in the area. The other foreign trees, all belonging to genera with native species, are given brief accounts. One omitted foreign tree that should have been included is Salix fragilis (and its hybrids with S. alba), which is very common along streams in urban areas in the region. Brief treatments (of 35 North American trees as well) lack many of the elements of the full entries, but usually muster a short, comparative description, often have a single black and white photograph, and occasionally have a range map.
As is typical for the many books using Little's Atlas, range maps are only provided for native species (including those briefly mentioned). Maps for naturalized species, even if only crude ones, would be welcome additions to tree books someday. One of the few consistent weaknesses of this book is that the verbal descriptions of range often vary from the mapped distribution. On most of these occasions, the verbal description is inaccurate, sometimes leaving out whole countries (Canada, Mexico, Guatemala), but there are a few cases in which occurrences have been left off the maps that still make it to the verbal description. The maps generally do not reflect recent range extensions, like the finding of Fraxinus profunda, Quercus ilicifolia, and Q. shumardii in Ontario. They also perpetuate Little's few howlers, like the fallacious mapping of Quercus prinusthroughout southernmost Ontario when it doesn't occur here at all (probably).
About half of the main entry species have good color photos and half of these are of flowers, with the rest evenly divided between fruits, fall color, and bark. Inclusion of black and white photos of small, medium, and large trunks for many species is a good feature you won't find elsewhere (at least not to this extent). The small black and white photos are generally effective, but a few of the twigs are too murky to be useful. One of these, labelled as Metasequoiafoliage on p. 410, is the photo of a small trunk of Thuja occidentalis from p. 412, turned on its side. There are also a few examples of discrepancies between features in the photographs and their verbal descriptions. The descriptions were also occasionally marred by word processing glitches, like a bit of the leaf description of Populus grandidentata repeated under the twigs. More common is an unfortunate concession to brevity that sometimes leads to omissions, including certain characteristics only under the first species ("as in all magnolias") and then not repeating them. Thus root-suckering grove formation is mentioned for Populus balsamiferaas "like quaking aspen," but not then described for P. tremuloides or other aspens. Many times, especially if the user is working with the keys (or flipping through the pictures), only one description will be read and, even if a comparison is made, it won't necessarily be with the first species in the genus.
The verbal descriptions of height aren't entirely consistent with the stated dimensions, so that the 60 ft of Pinus nigra and Fagus sylvatica is "large" while the 80 ft of Larix laricina is "medium". Size brings up the question of demarcation. Some of the species included, especially among the hollies and willows, are shrubs that sometimes meet Little's (1972) definition of a tree. It would be a rare event, indeed, to find a tree of one of these species and some of them never reach tree size within the central hardwoods region, even if they might do so southward. Is it useful to include some large shrubs but not others? On the side of omission, this book also follows most of its predecessors in skimpy treatment of hawthorns, one of the most prominent genera in the region, with a full description of the genus and brief treatment of four species. This is the only native genus given such short shrift. While difficult, hawthorns aren't a lot more difficult than willows and shouldn't just be ignored. At the minimum, tree books should include the species in one of the most conservative treatments, like Little's (1972), which lists 23 Crataegus species for the states of the central hardwood forest. Of the other tree books covering all or part of this region that I looked at for this review, only Sargent (1922, with "500" species) and Braun (1963, with 64 species) give the hawthorns serious attention. Sargent, of course is one of the three authors who created abhorrence for hawthorns, while Braun's account was written by Ernest Palmer, who spent much of his career trying to stuff this genie back in its bottle. None of the more recent books, including this one, makes a genuine attempt to help its readers understand hawthorn diversity.
The book has the usual range of small errors in Latin names (Crataegus stipulaceae, Malus glabreata), English (plurals that should be singular and my favorite, Fenneman's "Physiology of eastern United States"), and technical description ("seed" for the endocarp of Juglans cinerea, leaves of Populus alba 3-5 lobed when only the neoformed leaves are lobed). Regrettably, perhaps, the text didn't incorporate nomenclatural and taxonomic changes accepted in Flora of North America, volume 3. Finally, the keys are generally effective but contain a few errors, like listing Sorbus and Carya under the even pinnate lead and the omission of Toxicodendron.
Despite what may appear to be a litany of quibbles, this book is a good addition to the field and well worth owning. The authors have carved out a unique niche for it within the genre.—James E. Eckenwalder, Department of Botany, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario