previous

Book Reviews








Senghas, K. H. 2000. R. Schlechter's Die Orchideen ed. 3, Band 1C, 39 parts 153-156. Parey Bookverlag, Berlin. 64 pages, 2 colour plates, 23 b/w photographs, 15 line drawings. Price: Euro 21.99.

This publication completes the third and most comprehensive edition of Rudolf Schlechter's Die Orchideen, the second edition of which appeared in 1927 shortly after his death. Since then, so many new taxa have been described, new information gathered, and new techniques developed that Schlechter's classification has been vastly changed. As has been stated many times before, this is a completely new work that deserves a different title.

The first four parts of the third edition, originally edited by Brieger, Maatsch, and Senghas, appeared in 1973. It is to the credit of Senghas, the only surviving editor, that this comprehensive account of the orchid family has been completed. He is also responsible for most of the text since about 1983 and deserves credit for what is the most complete and detailed account of the family since the appearance of Schlechter's second edition of Die Orchideen appeared.

Accounts of three genera -- Coeliopsis, Lycomormium and Peristeria - are included here, each dealt with in detail with diagnostic keys, synonymy, short descriptions, illustrations, and distributions.

This volume includes three appendices. Wolfgang Haber contributes the first, an in-depth summary of the current state of our knowledge of orchids and their conservation. This includes sections on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention in Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), both of which have had significant impact on orchid conservation and cultivation. Senghas provides the second appendix, a discussion on the botanical fundamentals for orchid research. He discusses the many disciplines that have been used in assessing the relationships and classification of the orchids and their respective contributions. The final Appendix provides a survey of the most recent classifications of the Apostasioideae and Cypripedioideae.

The author and the publishers are to be congratulated on the completion of this monumental work. The text, which is in German, has meant that it is not readily accessible to many of those interested in orchids, but it deserves to be more widely known and used. If you have not yet subscribed to the third edition of Die Orchideen, perhaps now is the time. It is always more satisfying to have a complete work to hand rather than an incomplete one where individual parts can easily be mislaid or lost.

Phillip Cribb

 

Ortiz V., Pedro. 2000. Las Orquideas del Genero Masdevallia en Colombia (The Orchids of the Genus Masdevallia in Colombia). 174 pages, 151 colour illustrations. Associación Bogotana de Orquideología, Santafé de Bogota.

Pedro Ortiz has produced a handy, pocket-sized, paperback guide to all of the 151 species of Masdevallia found in the Andes of Colombia.

The introductory text covers the history of the genus, its characterization, cultivation, and subdivision into groups identified by singular characteristics such as a stem that is triangular in cross-section. A schematic illustration of a typical Masdevallia identifies those features considered significant for identification. A list of synonyms concludes the introduction.

The main text comprises a watercolour illustration of a flower of each species, accompanied by author, original place of publication, a short description, and a voucher citation. For most illustrations the lip and a petal are also illustrated in black-and-white. Thus, an unidentified species can be quickly identified by thumbing through the illustrations until its flower is matched. This by-and-large works effectively.

The cover is glossy paperback that should survive a few showers. Although I do not have a price to hand, I suspect that it will be priced competitively and find a place in the library of every fan of the Pleurothallidinae.

Phillip Cribb

Cingel, N. A. van der. 2001. An Atlas of Orchid Pollination--America, Africa, Asia and Australia. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam. 308 pages, 153 colour illustrations, 41 black-and-white illustrations. Price: US$99.00/Dutch Florins 198.00. ISBN 90 5410 486 4.

This is the second volume in Nelis A. van der Cingel's review of the literature on orchid pollination, the first devoted to European orchids. First, a minor quibble about the subtitle. According to the inside of the dustjacket, the author's aim was to compile pollination data for the "A-continents." Apart from being silly, such an approach is imprecise and wrong. When I last flew to Florida, America was still not a continent, and so this book's subtitle should read "Americas." or "North America, South America." or "New World.."

The opening chapters on orchid pollination, pollinators, and orchid classification touch on some general principles of pollination (discussed more thoroughly in, for example, van der Pijl and Dodson's (1966) Orchid Flowers: Their Pollination and Evolution and Proctor, Yeo, and Lack's (1996) The Natural History of Pollination) and also cladistics.

The subtitle might sound too ambitious, but the author has done a good job of synthesizing and summarizing the vast amount of literature on the subject, genus by genus, with some excellent colour illustrations from several sources. However, finding generic treatments is not always straightforward because the text is arranged by continent first (would that orchid genera would confine themselves to one continent!) and secondarily by Dressler's (1993) classification, which is now undergoing some significant revision in light of molecular data. At this point in time, before we have a complete phylogenetic classification of the family based in large part on molecular data, I would have organized the data differently, either by pollination syndrome or, as a last resort, alphabetically by genus.

Rather than hunt through the book for a genus or its relatives, which are often scattered through the book by continent, I often found it easier and faster to go straight to the index. The citations for specific pollination accounts (once found) are usually thorough and lucid. The volume closes with a comprehensive glossary, full list of references, and indices.

This volume is a useful, reasonably priced reference tool for everyone interested in an update to van der Pijl and Dodson's classic work on orchid pollination.

Alec Pridgeon

David Lang. 2001. Wild Orchids of Sussex. Pomegranate Press, Lewes, Sussex. 144 pages, 100 colour photographs, 33 maps. Paperback. Price 14.95. ISBN 09533493-3-0.

David Lang is one the foremost authorities on the native orchids of the British Isles and author of a popular and respected book on the subject. Here, he narrows his target to the county of Sussex, one of the richest regions for orchids in the country, with 33 of the recorded 50 species. Sussex is the most heavily wooded county in England and has a diversity of habitats: coastal marshes and cliffs, chalk downland, lowland woodlands, and acid heaths. The majority of orchids are found on the chalk grasslands of the South Downs that run across the county from the border of Hampshire in the west to Kent in the east.

The author's introductory chapters cover a range of topics: orchid habitats, records and rumours, a biography of Sussex orchid hunters, the structure of the orchid flower, germination and growth, reproduction, classification, and hybridisation. The main text deals with each of the 33 recorded species, providing for each a discursive account of the distribution, both historical and present-day, its ecology, pollination, and any other interesting tidbits gleaned by the author in his trawling of the nation's herbaria. Each species' account is accompanied by one or more of the author's excellent colour photographs, mostly taken in Sussex.

The concluding chapters cover orchids that may be found in the county but have no authentic vouchers from Sussex, changes in the orchid flora, the importance of careful recording and vouchering, a list of the herbaria visited, a comprehensive bibliography, and a glossary. Conservation issues are a recurrent theme, the distribution maps pointing to the severe decline of many species.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this attractively produced paperback to readers but confess that I have a so-far undeclared interest in that I am Sussex-born and bred!

Eric A. Christenson. Phalaenopsis. A Monograph. 2001. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 330 pages, 213 colour photographs, many black-and-white line drawings. Price $39.95. ISBN 0-88192-494-6.

Eric Christenson's long-awaited monograph on the genus Phalaenopsis, sponsored by the Phalaenopsis Alliance, has recently been published. It is the first monograph of the genus in English since Herman Sweet's The Genus Phalaenopsis that appeared in 1980. Much information has been gathered since Sweet's work appeared. The genus has also recently been reviewed by Gruss and Wolff (Phalaenopsis. 1995, Eugen Ulmer, Verlag), but that book is only available in German.

Christenson's monograph is an accessible account for both scientists and growers and will certainly become the major reference for the genus that is now the most widely grown of all orchids. The introductory chapters cover history, ecology and distribution, mnorphology, and classification. The main text comprises species' accounts that are arranged in five subgenera. The concluding chapters cover cultivation, conservation, hybrids, and the future (this includes a discussion on gaps in our knowledge, future research, propagation, and the potential of Phalaenopsis to change CITES). A comprehensive bibliography concludes the book.

The species accounts cover nomenclature, synonymy and typification, detailed descriptions, distributions, published illustrations, and black-and-white dissections, some of which are based upon Sweet's drawings while others are original. A discussion follows on the affinities, taxonomy, synonymy, and distribution of the species. Nearly all of the species are illustrated by colour photographs of living plants and sometimes of the type specimens or drawings on the type sheets.

What then is new? Christenson includes the genera Kingidium and Doritis within Phalaenopsis, citing the unreliability of characters used to distinguish these genera such as pollinium number and absence or presence of a spur to support his treatment. Molecular evidence, so far unpublished, supports his claim. The genus comprises 62 species, according to the author, divided among five subgenera: Proboscidoiodes, Aphyllae, Parishianae, Polychilos, and Phalaenopsis. Both subgenera Polychilos and Phalaenopsis comprise four sections. Phalaenopsis doweryensis Garay & Christenson from Sabah is newly described, the combination P. minus newly made, and several infra-specific taxa are recognised. Some will disagree with the resurrection of species such as P. buyssoniana, P. hainanensis, and P. honghenensis, but the reasons for their resurrection are clearly articulated.

I have a few minor suggestions for a second edition, including the addition of distribution maps and the numbering of colour plates and line drawings to facilitate reference to them.

I can recommend this book to readers. Eric Christenson's comments on the lack of ecological data for many species inspired me to write a short article on the habitats of three small-flowered species that I had seen in southern China and Bhutan. I am sure this book will likewise inspire Phalaenopis enthusiasts to take more interest in these beautiful species, as well as their ecology and conservation. In my experience, local people in the Far East love these orchids and, sadly, usually collect any and all specimens of the larger-flowered Phalaenopsis that they find, either for sale or to decorate their own houses. As the author points out, the species of this genus are among the most threatened species as a result of this and the catastrophic destruction of their habitats.

Phillip Cribb



Title Page
Recent Orchid Literature

July 2001.
Copyright The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.