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A Good Read

.....what's worth a look?

Reviews in this issue cover Native Bees of the Sydney Region - A Field Guide by Dr Anne Dollin, Common Australian Fungi - A Bushwalker's Guide by Tony Young and Feral Future by Tim Low.
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Native Bees of the Sydney Region - A Field Guide
Dr Anne Dollin

Published by Australian Native Bee Research, North Richmond, NSW
72 pages, A5 format, text and black and white illustrations, and eight pages of colour plates.

Native bees are valuable pollinators of our Australian bushland. Fascinating reports of specialised relationships between flowers and native bees are slowly emerging, but more research is urgently needed. So little is known of the behaviour, nesting habits and distribution of may native bee species, yet land clearing and habitat loss continue daily. The observations that Society for Growing Australian Plants members make in their gardens and local bushland could help!

Until recently, little information was available to assist the plant enthusiast to identify these fascinating species, but now Australia's first ever field guide to native bees is out! Native Bees of the Sydney Region - A Field Guide describes 31 of the most easily recognised native bees found in Sydney, 26 of which are also found in Queensland. A suggested common name, full description and colour photographs are given for each bee, as well as details of its flower preferences and known nesting habits.

Field Observation Sheets in the back of the Guide allow readers to report their native bee observations. This information will be used to help unravel the mal1y remaining mysteries about Australian native bees!

Other chapters in the Guide describe plants loved by native bees and artificial nests which can be placed in the garden to support native bees. Tips on recognising and observing native bees in the bush are also given, as well as a pronunciation guide, glossary and index. The book also features a foreword by environmentalist Eric Rolls.

Copies of Native Bees of the Sydney Region - A Field Guide, may be ordered from:

Australian Native Bee Research Centre
P.O. Box 74
North Richmond NSW 2754.

Or visit the Aussie Bee website

Reprinted from the March 2001 issue of the Bulletin, newsletter of SGAP's Queensland Region.

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Common Australian Fungi - A Bushwalker's Guide
Tony Young

Published by University of New South Wales Press, Revised Edition 2000.
Paperback, 157 pages, numerous black and white illustrations, 32 colour plates. AUD$22.95

Reviewed by Brian Walters

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I have to confess that fungi, other than the ones you buy at the greengrocer are a bit of a mystery to me. And I suspect that I'm not alone.

There have been many occasions when wandering along bush tracks I've come across unusual and/or colourful fruiting bodies of fungi. I've even got a few photos of some of the more interesting ones hoping to get some sort of identification later. But invariably these have always appeared in my photo database under the anonymous title "Fungus" - not really helpful!

What I've always needed is a good, packable reference that I can carry along with my camera gear and hopefully get some sort of basic identification on the spot. So.... is Common Australian Fungi the reference I need?

It certainly fills the bill regarding size being a modest 115 x 218 mm and 154 pages - most definitely packable! But what about content? Am I likely to be able to identify that bright red, dome shaped toad stool that I've just discovered along my bush track? Well.... it depends.

Firstly, there are thousands of species of fungi in Australia and this book covers only a few hundred. However, as the title says, it covers the common ones and that will probably be enough for the audience that the book is aimed at. Secondly, some of the procedures used for identification (such as taking spore prints) can't really be done out on the track - but they can be done later if you take a sample. However, this raises the issue as to whether taking a specimen for casual identification is environmentally sound practice. Although the book includes a section on collection and preservation of herbarium specimens, it doesn't provide any guidance on this issue.

The basis for identification used in the book is the binomial key that will be familiar to anyone who has used a serious field guide to other types of plants. This involves a series of choices between paired descriptions which (hopefully) eventually lead to identification at the genus level. As the book says, "if the outcome is obviously wrong......try again", and this will also be familiar practice for anyone who has used other field guides!

Having determined a genus for your specimen, you can then turn to the species descriptions which make up about three-quarters of the book. These are very comprehensive and cover descriptions of the cap, flesh, gills, stem, spores, smell, habitat and distribution (at State and/or Territory level). Importantly, poisonous species are also clearly indicated! Line diagrams are included with most of the species descriptions as an aid to identification. However, it was not always apparent to me what is being illustrated - the sectional view of stems and caps are obvious (and helpful) and presumably other structures illustrated are spore shapes. But that still leaves some other illustrated parts whose function is not obvious, at least to me, and not explained.

The initial sections of the book provide a very useful introduction to the major groups of fungi and fungal structure, accompanied by numerous, high quality line drawings. There are also 32 pages of colour photographs and illustrations which are very clear and which will certainly help with identification. Finally there is a concise, but adequate, glossary.

In summary, a very useful publication that packs an enormous amount of information into a small package - a welcome addition to any bushwalker's arsenal and I'll certainly be carting it along on my (all to rare) excursions into the bush.

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Feral Future
Tim Low

Published by Penguin Books, 1999.
Paperback, 400 pages. AUD$29.00

Reviewed by Jill Roberts

A challenging book by Tim Low, biologist, writer, photographer, author of Bush Tucker and Bush Medicine and writer for Nature Australia magazine. He also conducts fauna and flora surveys and assesses bushland for local councils, often advising about weed problems, as well as representing the conservation movement on government weed committees.

Tim graphically describes the long history of progress towards 'globalisation' of the ecology - man's long standing penchant for moving flora and fauna throughout the globe, and adding to the movement of pests, diseases and seeds on anything that moves. He shows the vastness of the problems caused by 'garden escapes', water borne problems with discharge of waste ballast in ports, the introduction of poorly researched biological controls, past and present errors in assessment by authorities of potential danger to species and mechanisms to prevent new problems from being introduced. The list of hurdles seems endless!

He acknowledges that we are too late to successfully eradicate the problems already present but we should be able to prevent new problems entering the country. Statistics show that "ten new weeds, most of them escaped garden plants, establish themselves in Australia each year".

There is a plea for us to alter our gardening ethos and accept ecological responsibility for the bushland adjoining our properties by careful selection of species as well as disposal of waste.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has an impossible task, many of its difficulties being outlined. One of the big difficulties is the delay between when species are introduced and the time they adapt to the change of environment and become 'feral'. Claiming that "...most problems are born of ignorance and misunderstanding". Tim believes that with greater public awareness, the government may be forced to "act in an integrated way".

This is not a relaxing read but stimulating, and horrifying when you think of the world growing the same plants on every continent! There are a lot of dedicated people out there doing their bit to try to protect our wonderful Australian flora from becoming swamped by introduced plants.

Reprinted from Eucryphia, newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Tasmania), March 2001.


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Australian Plants online - June 2001
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants