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A Guide to Plants of Inland Australia - Philip Moore

Reviewed by Kerry Rathie

This is basically a very interesting book with a few flaws. I like the writing style, and the book is certainly individual. His 'inland Australia' (see map on pp. 10-11) really means arid or semi-arid, as it includes the area up to the sea-shore from Kalbarri to Derby, the Nullarbor, the Northern Territory inland of Katherine and most of South Australia.

Part 1, the first 71 pages, gives a nice overview of how the Australian flora evolved, in Gondwana and later, and how geologic forces created areas like the Nullarbor. Subjects covered include adaptations to fire, poisonous plants, aboriginal plant use, 'management by fire', and four major plant communities. These are the mallee areas, the grasslands (both hummock and tussock), the mulga, and the chenopods (salt-bushes, blue bushes and others).

Part 2, of 280 pages, deals with 22 distinctive (eg. baobab) or major (eg. daisies) plant groups. Most of these reviews are very informative, although necessarily not comprehensive, and often contain information based on the latest botanical and taxonomic research. The 27 page section on eremophilas, with usually 2-3 species per page, covers more of these colourful beauties than any other book I know. As in the other sections, each species gets one small but clear photo, and a distribution map.

Part 3, with 96 pages, covers the 'other' species, and includes 23 pages in two appendices respectively depicting massed flowerings, and species along the road from Kalbarri to Shark Bay that are notable but absent from the true inland. The images in the appendices are named but not described.

And those flaws I mentioned? Philip was a nuclear scientist, and has not always been well advised on his genetics. Most speciation is not 'favoured by relative stability with gradual change over long periods'. In plants, relatively unrelated species can cross, double their chromosome numbers to remain fertile, and then keep all chromosomes or shed some of the 'new and surplus' ones, and then perhaps do it all again in a new cross. Animals almost never indulge in such activities.

The cycad section states they are wind-pollinated. It has been known for 20 years or so that probably all, here and overseas, ar insect pollinated, often by weevils.

Macrozamia moorei does not exist in 'north-eastern NSW'. The large cycad there, M. johnsoni, was split off over a decade ago. In this section, and some others, Moore seems to give similar weight to old and current taxonomic views. The newer views, as in the case of Hill and Osbome's text that he cites for the cycads, are almost always more correct. Many more cycads exist in inland Australia than the four he mentions.

A Guide to Plants of Inland Australia

Philip Moore, Reed New Holland, Sydney, 2005
RRP $49.95
Paperback, 504 pages, colour illustrations

From the SGAP Queensland Region "Bulletin".

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Australian Plants online - 2006
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