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Australian Plants online

A Good Read

.....what's current in print?

Reviews in this issue cover "The Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants, Vol7" by Rodger Elliot and David Jones, "Australian Flora" by Leonard Cronin and "A Field Guide to Melaleucas Volume 2" by Ivan Holliday. Books Diagram

Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants; Vol 7
Rodger Elliot and David Jones

Published by Lothian Publishing Company, 1998

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

Yes, it has arrived and it contains over 1400 species in 240 genera from N - Po so things like Pimelea, Petrophile, Olearia, Pomaderris and some of the water plants like Nymphoides and Nelumbo are covered. Rodger and David have spent thousands of hours researching these series of books and there are only TWO more to go!! (Please keep going!!).

It is now 17 years (couldn't be!) since Lothian published the first volume in the definitive guide to Australian plants. It is truly a significant publishing venture and this latest volume is the same high standard as others in this multi-volume Encyclopaedia.

There are now three Supplements published to keep us all up to date with name changes, new plants and additional information about our favourite plants.

The photographs are excellent (have a close look at Pimelea physodes on page 322) and Trevor Blake's line drawings are wonderfully well done.

Keep up the good work - your efforts are very much appreciated.

Reprinted from the March 1998 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP.


Australian Flora
Leonard Cronin

Published by Reed Books, Kew, 1997.

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

When I first received this book, I wondered what its main focus was. I was familiar with the original version, published in 1987 as "Key Guide to Australian Wildflowers", which was in a small, field guide format. The present work is a large, hardcover, coffee-table layout, yet the whole presentation is essentially that of a guide to identification of around 1000 species of Australian plants. I wondered if such a guide was needed in large format.

According to the author, the aim of the book is "to bring some of this knowledge (of Australian flora) together in an easily accessible fashion, allowing both the scientific community and nature lovers ... to identify some of our most common species." To aid identification, the author has adopted a very simple visual key system. The keys are based on easily identifiable flower or plant characteristics, for example, flower shapes, leaf characteristics, eucalypt fruit shapes and so forth. Plants are separated into wildflowers, trees, palms, fens and fungi.

The plant illustrations are paintings rather than photographs and each is accompanied by a concise description of the plant. When the book first appeared, I was quite impressed with the concept of grouping plants under various, easily identified plant or floral characteristics. Ann Prescott successfully used a similar idea in her book "It's Blue with five petals" (Ann Prescott, Adelaide, 1988), although she included line drawings rather than fully coloured plates to illustrate her plants.

Although the overall organisation of the book is excellent, I do have some criticisms of Cronin's work. Many of colours particularly reds and pinks are too dark, while yellow and golden are produced as orange. However, the illustrations of the larger flowers, Banksia spp. illustrations for example, and those for the trees, palms, ferns and fungi are excellent. Of major concern to me was the use of old and incorrect names for a number of species, for example none of the "Helichrysum" names have been updated. The author is still using the earlier names for some banksias (B.hookerana instead of B.hookeriana) and B."collina" has been B.spinulosa var. collina since 1981. At least one illustration is wrong , the specimen shown as Dryandra nivea on page 46 is most certainly inaccurate.

Despite these criticisms, I expect the book will be very useful in helping people distinguish between closely related genera.

Reprinted from the March 1998 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP.


A Field Guide to Melaleucas Volume 2
Ivan Holliday

Published by Ivan Holliday, Adelaide, 1997
Softcover, $AUS15, posted

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh.

This small guide (it is only 64 pages) has been produced, in the author's own words, 'to correct the Field Guide where necessary' and to 'help native plant enthusiasts to learn more about this very large genus of plants'. Ivan Holliday is well known for his field guides and other publications on native plants, most notable in this context being his "Field Guide to Melaleucas" published in 1987. During the recent revision of the genus by Lyn Craven of the National Herbarium, Canberra, some 50 new species were described and many earlier names were changed. Ivan attempts to document these changes and to provide clear, close-up pictures of the new species, thus updating our knowledge of this important group of plants.

I have always found melaleucas to be a confusing group with many species being apparently similar. I was thus heartened to see that even the experts have troubles. Ivan Holliday in the 1996 reprint of the Field Guide had included two subspecies in M.coccinea which Lyn Craven had separated as new species, M.eximia and M.penicula. They both looked like M.coccinea to me! Ivan has adopted a simple but effective format including a close up picture of each species, and short but adequate descriptions covered habit of plant and leaf, flower and fruit descriptions. He also gives the plant distribution and a most useful summary of the distinguishing features of each species. What I found particularly helpful were the sketches showing the general habit of the plant, and scaled drawings of a stem with leaf and flowerhead details, fruits and an enlarged view of individual flowers. These, in conjunction with the photographs, make this a useful field reference and compliment and update the Field Guide. A short index, a glossary of botanical terms and a table of name changes complete the book.

I have only one criticism. The book lacks a list of references and does not provide details of Lyn Craven's revision which I presume is to be published in a forthcoming volume of Flora of Australia. Holliday's brief descriptions are adequate but anyone wishing for more information should refer to Craven's discussion.

Reprinted from the December 1997 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP.


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Australian Plants online - June 1998
The Society for Growing Australian Plants