Book Reviews


Plant Collectors in Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. 1997. By L. J. Dorr. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. xlvi + 524 pp. b/w illustr., ISBN 1-900347-18-0. Price 58.00.

Madagascar's larger animals are far better known than its plants, but the latter are no less fascinating. Its plant life is rich, largely endemic and still poorly understood. For generations its study remained largely the preserve of French botanists. As a result much that is written on the subject, including the still incomplete Flore de Madagascar, is written in French. The many botanists and plant collectors who have explored its diverse and unique flora are the unsung heroes of that extensive work. Laurence Dorr has remedied that with this compendium of plant collectors in Madagascar, which follows in the admirable tradition of Mrs. van Steenis- Krusemans Malaysian Plant Collectors and Collections in Flora Malesiana, vol. 1 (1950), Nigel Hepper's Plant Collectors in West Africa (1971), and Gunn and Codd's Botanical Exploration in Southern Africa (1981).

The introductory chapters explain the format and list the source references and photographic credits. The main text is an alphabetized treatment of the collectors and botanists who have worked in Madagascar. The entries suggest that it is a misconception to imagine that most collectors have been French, although they do figure significantly. All are here: Aubert Aubert du Petit-Thouars who visited Madagascar in 1795 and 1796, the prolific Leon Humblot and Henri Perrier de la Bâthie (whose works spanned over half a century), and modern botanists such as Philippe Morat, François Hallé, and Jean Bosser. There is also a detailed synopsis of the pioneering collectors of the 19th century such as the German Johann Hildebrandt, who made significant collections there between 1879 and 1881, and also the missionaries William Ellis, Willian Deans Cowan, and Richard Baron. Modern collectors and botanists are a cosmopolitan clan and include many still active there: Porter R. Lowry III, George Schatz, and Peter Phillipson of the Missouri Botanic Garden; John and Jatmi Dransfield, Henk Beentje, and David Du Puy of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and most appropriately many Malagasy collectors and botanists. Given its status as a "living ark", it is perhaps not so surprising to see how many botanists have managed to collect or visit the island during their careers. These include the late, lamented Al Gentry, most often associated with work in the tropical Americas, who made three visits in 1975, 1985, and 1988; Harold St. John, better known for his work on Pacific islands screw pines, who was there in 1961; and yours truly who had the pleasure in 1996. When collectors have worked in tandem, they appear in the book under a joint heading as well as singly.

The individual entries comprise brief biographical details, itineraries, and expedition dates in Madagascar, a bibliography of significant sources and portraits, and a halftone photograph for about every sixth entry. The latter are significantly skewed toward modern collectors. An appendix lists the number used by collectors working for the colonial department of Eaux et Forêts in Madagascar.

The book is handsomely produced in hardback with an attractive cover. Halftone photographs, mainly of Malagasy plants, appear between each letter of the alphabet in the main text. An innovative feature for this bibliography, at least in botanical works of this nature, is the CD provided in a pocket inside the back cover. For those with a CD- ROM drive this may well prove to be more valuable than the book itself, being considerably lighter and more portable. The lavish production no doubt accounts for the high cost of this book, which will be an essential reference for those working on Madagascan plants for many years to come. Viewed in that light the book is well worth the money.

Phillip Cribb


Orchid Monographs. Volume 8. 1997. By E. F. de Vogel (ed.). Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, Leiden University, The Netherlands. 272 pp. + iv + 7 colour plates. ISBN 90-71236-34-X. Price and ordering information available from: Publications Department, Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, P. O. Box 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.

Volume 8 of this spectacular series, begun in 1986, is a landmark for the wrong reason. In a letter to subscribers accompanying the volume is the sad news that it is the last, presumably for financial reasons. Previous volumes have treated -- with equal authority and comprehensiveness -- Acriopsis; African Bulbophyllinae; Pholidota; Indian species of Oberonia; Nervilia; Coelogyne sect. Tomentosae, Ania, Hancockia, Mischobulbum, Tainia; and Bulbophyllum sects. Adelopetalum, Lepanthanthe, Macrouris, Pelma, Peltopus, and Uncifera.

In this well-produced finale are revisions of Agrostophyllum sect. Appendiculopsis and Mediocalcar (A. Schuiteman), Bromheadia (J. Kruizinga, H. J. van Scheindelen, and E. F. de Vogel), Acanthephippium (S. A. Thomas), and Chrysoglossum, Collabium, Diglyphosa, and Pilophyllum (W. van der Burgh and E. F. de Vogel), all of them poorly known and rarely seen in cultivation. It is a pleasure to see a cladistic treatment of Agrostophyllum sect. Appendiculopsis. Even though the study is based solely on 11 morphological characters, it represents an phylogenetic approach that is becoming a part of every modern study, whether morphological, molecular, or (preferably) both. Schuiteman¦s synthetic revision of Mediocalcar is admirable for embracing aspects of anatomy, physiology, cytology, phytogeography, ecology, and even cultivation. Information on cultivation is also provided for Bromheadia by its authors. The vast majority of taxa described are also illustrated with diagnostic line drawings. Those of Acanthephippium, executed by Sarah Thomas, are particularly detailed and genuine works of art.

I commend all the authors of the present volume for their attention to detail as well as series editor Ed de Vogel (and the editorial board) for upholding high standards of scholarship and presentation throughout the publication of the series.

Alec Pridgeon



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