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Reviews in this issue cover "Native Plants of Queensland; Volume 4" by Keith Williams, "Tasmanian Wildflowers; Volume 1 - A Field Guide" by Bob Minchin and "Growing Australian Orchids" by Alec Blombery and Betty Maloney.
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Native Plants of Queensland: Volume 4
Keith Williams

Copyright Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd., 371 Queen St, Brisbane. 1999
Hard cover, 400 pages, many colour photos; $AU65

Reviewed by Brian Walters

The first volume of "Native Plants of Queensland" was published in 1979 and the success of that publication led to a second and third volumes. Each follows a similar format so fans of this excellent series will know just what to expect in this latest (and last) volume.

The book provides colour photographs of well over 1000 species and includes brief descriptions of each covering:

  • Plant family
  • Botanical Name
  • Common name
  • Month photographed
  • Distribution

In common with the earlier volumes, the layout of the book is alphabetical by botanical name. Each two page`opening has 6 photographs on the right hand page and accompanying descriptions on the left. The A4 size of the publication means that the photos are quite large and provide clear indications of flower and foliage or plant habit. For the most part, the quality of the photos is excellent.

Also in common with the earlier volumes are a series of full page colour photographs of plant habitats. These are located throughout the publication and have their own index for ease of locating. There is also a common name index.

The only criticism that can be levelled at the book is the apparent oversight in not including an explanation of the abbreviations for Queensland pastoral districts. These abbreviations (eg. Bk, Dd, Gn) are used to describe the natural distribution of each species and previous volumes had explanations of the abbreviations and a map showing their locations. These are missing in the current volume, an omission that will not affect those who already own previous volumes but new readers will find the abbreviations confusing.

Supplied with Volume 4 is a separate 56 page General Index and Supplement to all 4 volumes. This is also in A4 size and includes updated plant nomenclature for plants illustrated in the earlier volumes.

Owners of previous volumes will find this book an essential addition to their library. Those who have not encountered the earlier volumes will find that this is an excellent introduction to the native plants of Queensland and they will soon find themselves seeking out those earlier publications (Volumes 1 and 3 are still available).


Tasmanian Wildflowers - A Field Guide; Volume 1
R.F. (Bob) Minchin

Published by Regal Publications, Launceston, Tasmania
Paperback, 206 pages, Colour plates; $AU15.00

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

I have to say I was disappointed with this book. The author's intention was to produce a "fairly compact pocketbook" guide to the wildflowers of Tasmania and in this he has succeeded. However, both the arrangement of the species described and the quality of the illustrations leave something to be desired. The arrangement is by groups of "similarly shaped flowers" so that for example pea flowers, daisies etc should appear together. This is in general true but it does lead to a strange order, for example Dillwynia sericea appears on p.46 and Dillwynia cinerascens on p. 56 with a whole range of other pea flower genera in between. Similarly, the seven Olearia illustrated are spread between pages 136 and 154. It is always a problem for authors preparing small field guides to know how best to arrange their material. The expected users will generally be inexperienced with little botanical knowledge. They may not know genera or species names so an alphabetical arrangement, while partly satisfactory once the user has found a flower that "looks like" one illustrated, doesn't help much when the user has no idea what the family or genus is. Similarly, an arrangement by area or vegetation type is reasonably satisfactory when species have limited distributions but causes problems for the author in knowing where to include a plant when that plant is common or widespread. It also means that species belonging to a given genera are scattered throughout the book.

As this is a small pocketbook, the illustrations (two per page) are relatively small, 75 by 60 mm. Many have not reproduced well, with a number of the orchids in particular being too dark (plates 22, 23, 33, 35). Others are not really clear enough for the user to see the distinguishing features of the plant (plates 107, 116, 128, 152). In fairness, many of the species illustrated have quite small flowers which are notoriously difficult to photograph clearly. In any future edition of the book, consideration should be given to improving the quality of some of the illustrations.

The author deals with pea flowers, orchids, daisy flowers, bell-shaped flowers, broad-petalled flowers and some miscellaneous flowers in this volume. Rain forest flowers, wattle flowers, gum tree flowers and a number of others are included in a proposed volume 2. Each plate includes a brief description, notes on the plant's habitat, the flowering period, family name, origin of the species name and common names. Several appendices include the derivations of family and genus names, a page of the common leaf shapes that assist with understanding the descriptions and a list of references although a number of these are dated. Indexes of both common and botanical names are provided. A list of plant name changes is also included.

The book will have some use for anyone looking for a small, compact guide to some of the Tasmanian flora but will not replace the standard work on this subject, A guide to the flowers and plants of Tasmania by the Launceston Field Naturalists Club, revised edition published in 1996.

Reprinted from the March 2000 issue of "Growing Australian", the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria).


Growing Australian Orchids
Alec Blombery. Illustrations by Betty Maloney

Published by Kangaroo Press, 1996
Paperback, 72 pages, Colour plates, monochrome illustrations

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

Alec Blombery and Betty Maloney are both well known to growers of Australian plants and have collaborated in the past on several books. The result in this case is a compact, easy-to-follow and well-illustrated book providing adequate information for anyone wanting to know about growing orchids, both epiphytes (growing on the surface of trees or rocks or in hollows of trees) and terrestrials (growing in the ground).

After a brief chapter on the main orchid groups, Blombery discusses orchids in their natural habitat as a means of better understanding their needs in cultivation. He presents simple keys for each type, dividing them up into groups which are illustrated by Betty Maloney's lovely monochrome paintings. However, while the illustrations are shown clearly under their respective groups for terrestrials, the situation with the epiphytes is anything but clear. On page 19, for example, characteristics of four groups of epiphytes are outlined but only two species are illustrated and there is no indication of which group(s) they belong to. Chapter 3 describes orchid cultivation, concentrating on the more commonly grown species and again using Betty Maloney's paintings to show techniques such as division and repotting of Dendrobium (p.33) and division and mounting of Dockrillia and Bulbophyllum (p. 35). There is a chapter on insect and mite attack and how to treat it, one on fertilisers and their use and a detailed and excellently illustrated chapter on propagation, both from seed and vegetatively. The final chapter discusses orchids as garden features, again with beautiful colour plates showing a range of species in shade house and garden situations. Appendices listing temperature and rainfall for coastal (Cairns) and inland (Atherton Tableland) tropical northern Queensland are included as a guide for those wishing to try cultivation of tropical orchids, and for those of us who have not caught up with the break-up of Dendrobium, a list of the 29 species transferred into the new genus Dockrillia is given. A glossary, short bibliography and index complete the book.

I highly recommend this book. The text is clear and simply written while giving readers comprehensive advice on all aspects of growing orchids. The colour pictures are superb although illustrating only a small number of more commonly grown species while the specially prepared plates showing propagation techniques would be very useful for novice growers. I really enjoyed Betty Maloney's monochrome drawings and they add greatly to what is a very professionally produced book.

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Australian Plants online - March 2000
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants