previous

Book Reviews





Jones, D., Wapstra, H., Tonelli, P., and Harris, S. 1999. The Orchids of Tasmania. Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, Victoria. 408 pp. Price: A$79.95. ISBN 0 522 84851 6.

When we need to know anything about Australian orchids, we invariably turn first to David Jones's Native Orchids of Australia, the most comprehensive and authoritative work on the subject. The Orchids of Tasmania is an update of that work for Tasmania and treats 195 species, four of them described as late as February 1999. For each species Jones and his knowledgeable co-authors provide type information, common name, etymology, description, diagnostic features, species easily confused with it, distribution in Tasmania (with map) and elsewhere, habitat, flowering period, notes, and an excellent colour photograph.

Apart from species descriptions, there are sections on orchidology in Tasmania, Tasmanian habitats, conservation, notes on several aspects of Tasmanian orchids (e.g., fire, growth forms, pollination), a key to the genera, and generic descriptions and line drawings. One additional feature is a 28-couplet key to orchid leaves so that sterile specimens can be identified to genus. Closing the book are a checklist of Tasmanian orchids, an annotated list of orchid taxa erroneously recorded for the state, a glossary, references, and index.

I particularly welcome the two colour plates illustrating the columns of 32 taxa of Thelymitra, which rank among the most colourful and picturesque of all orchid columns, as diagnostic tools. To include these plates was a stroke of genius.

This remarkable book will likely be the definitive work on the subject for scientists, serious hobbyists, and conservationists. Considering the extensive fieldwork that went into The Orchids of Tasmania, the superb colour (printed 4 over 4), and the reasonable price, it is an excellent value that I recommend highly for any library, whether personal or institutional. - Alec Pridgeon


Chowdhery, H. J. 1999. Orchid Flora of Arunachal Pradesh. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehra Dun, India. 824 pp. 95 colour photographs, 423 b/w illustrations. ISBN 81 211 0124 7.

The Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh lies in the far north-east of the country, abutting Bhutan in the west, China (Tibet) in the north, Myanmar (Burma) in the east, and Assam in the south. It occupies an area of almost 84,000 sq. km. Over 60% remains under forest cover. It is an area of high rainfall, and four vegetation types can be distinguished: tropical forest between 10 and 1000m elevation, subtropical forest up to 1800m, temperate forests up to 3500m, and an alpine zone above that. The region is extremely rich floristically, placed as it is where the Palaearctic, Indo-Chinese and Indo-Malayan floras meet. In this diverse region, some 545 species of orchids have been identified to date. The orchid flora is not only rich but also diverse and contains many species of horticultural interest, notably in genera such as Cymbidium and Dendrobium.

This book is a comprehensive treatment of the orchid flora of the region by H. J. Chowdhery, a long-term resident in the region and currently botanist in charge of the Arunachal Pradesh Circle for the Botanical Survey of India. The introductory chapters cover the habit and habitats of orchids, their morphology, the basic cultural requirements of orchids, economic uses, and distribution within the State. An artificial key to the genera follows. This contains a few errors, e.g., leaves are pleated not "plaited"; the organ each side of the column of Diphylax is a staminode not a "spur". Keys do not always include the most obvious key characters, e.g. slipper-shaped lip and distinctive terminal staminode for Cypripedium and Paphiopedilum.

The main text arranges the genera alphabetically, not the most useful means of using an illustrated flora; direct comparison between allied orchids is rendered difficult because they are often well separated in the text. Keys are provided to the species within a genus. Each species is its correct name, references, limited synonymy, description, flowering and fruiting period, distribution, and ecology within the state. Every species is illustrated by a clear black-and-white line drawing; unfortunately these often lack critical details of floral parts. Colour photographs of about 90 species are also included at the back of the text. The addition of 18 species newly recorded for Arunachal Pradesh in an addendum suggests that the flora is still incompletely known, a view that is confirmed by the account of the Bhutan orchid flora currently in preparation which already includes over 600 species.

This book is presented on a grand scale, more a coffee table production than a field guide. It is a significant advance on Hegde's (1984) account of the flora that included only 368 species. It does include about half of all of the Indian orchid flora and as such will be a useful addition to the libraries of those interested in the orchids of the subcontinent. -- Phillip Cribb


Fessel, H. H. and Balzer, P. 1999. Native Philippine Orchids. Times Editions, Singapore. 192 pp. Six line drawings, 151 colour photographs, 137 maps. ISBN 981 232 074 1.

Apart from Orchidiana Philippiniana, Helen Valmayor's weighty two-volume account published in 1984, well-illustrated accounts of the rich orchid flora of the Philippines have been remarkable by their absence, particularly when so many of the surrounding regions have been the subject of recent, well-illustrated treatments.

The authors of Native Philippine Orchids have produced a handy, well-illustrated, and up-to-date account of a showy selection of the Philippine orchid flora. It includes not only familiar species such as the slipper orchids, Phalaenopsis, and vandas, but also less well-known ones in genera such as Ascoglossum, Ceratocentron, Grosourdya, Megalotus, and Sarcophyton. It is particularly useful to have some of the recently described species included, notably Dendrochilum javieriense, Dendrobium balzerianum, D. milaniae, D. orbilobatum, Phalaenopsis bastianii, P. philippinensis, and Vanda javierae.

The introductory chapters cover aspects of the history of discovery of Philippine orchids, their distribution, what is an orchid, taxonomy, nomenclature, vegetative morphology, and pollination and germination. The main text deals with 137 species; for each the currently accepted name, bibliographic reference, classification of the genus, species description, interesting facts, distribution, and names of similar species are provided. Interesting facts covers flowering time, vernacular names where they exist, and a brief nomenclatural history. The last is not particularly useful as references are not provided. Each account is accompanied by a clear distribution map, red on black-and-white outline map) and a colour photograph that is a composite of plant habit and flower in close-up view. The latter is particularly successful and would readily transfer to the computer screen is ever attempted by the authors.

The taxonomy is generally sound, although I have had no reason to change my opinion that the correct name for the Mindanao slipper orchid is Paphiopedilum adductum and not P. elliottianum as given here.

Although it covers about a quarter of the orchid flora it is an excellent place to start your identification of Philippine orchids. I can recommend this book to readers as a well-produced, handy pocket-sized and relatively robust paperback with a water-resistant cover that should survive some use in the field or orchid glasshouse. - Phillip Cribb



Title Page
Recent Literature

25 January 2000.
Copyright The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.