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A Good Read...what's current in print?

Reviews in this issue cover "Field Guide to the Eucalypts, Vol.3" by M.Brooker and D.Kleinig, "Australian Brachyscomes" by the Australian Daisy Study Group and "Wild Lime" by Juleigh Robins.

Field Guide to the Eucalypts; Vol 3 (Northern Australia)
M.Brooker and D.Kleinig

Published by Inkarta Press, Melbourne and Sydney. 1994
383 pages, hard cover, $145

Reviewed by Tony Bean, Queensland Herbarium.

The recently published "Field Guide to Eucalypts - Volume 3" completes a series of books which gives a comprehensive account of Australian eucalypts, with the emphasis on identification.

Volume 3 covers the whole of northern Australia, ie. the northern half of Western Australia, the whole of the Northern Territory and the whole of Queensland, including the area already covered by Volume 1.

The introductory chapters are full of interest and valuable information on the history, classification and identification of eucalypts.

The species identification keys are necessarily large, but not too unwieldy, because the authors have split northern Australia into nine regions, each having a separate key. A good feature of these keys is that reliable (ie. relatively constant) characters are used in the early couplets; so that the user can be confident of at least arriving at the right group of species, before unreliable characters such as "leaves glossy" v/s "leaves dull" are encountered.

The heart of the book is made up by the species digests. 279 eucalypt taxa are treated, including 21 taxa not yet formally named (they are identified by a 2-letter code), and six new species formally described in this book.

Every species (or subspecies) is allocated one page, and the reader is provided with a botanical description, distribution map and colour photographs. I must say that the photography is excellent. This is a tribute to David Kleinig and the high standard he sets for himself.

I do not wish to discuss individual species, but the inclusion of Eucalyptus rameliana is of particular interest. This species was discovered by Ernest Giles in 1876, but was then "lost" and was only rediscovered in 1991!

Some minor errors and inconsistencies have been noted. E.clavigera has been omitted without explanation. Eucalyptus sp. TT, as it is given in the book, is in fact E.kabiana described in 1991. The author citation for E.paedoglauca is incorrect and should be 'Johnson and Blaxcell'. For E.atrovirens, the description states that the inflorescences are 7-flowered, but the accompanying photograph shows a 12-flowered and a 9-flowered inflorescence; similarly with E.nesophila.

These minor blemishes do not detract from what is a superb treatment of Australia's second largest genus of plants. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone with an interest in Eucalyptus.

Reprinted from the March 1995 issue of the "Bulletin" published by the Queensland Region of SGAP.

Editor's note; Volumes 1 and 2 of "Field Guide to Eucalypts" follow a similar format to that described in the above review. Vol.1 covers eucalypts of south-eastern Australia (southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and eastern South Australia); Vol.2 covers Western Australia and the remainder of South Australia).

Note that all three volumes were published prior to the publication of the genus Corymbia in September 1995 by L.Johnson and K.Hill. This removed around 80 species from Eucalyptus and transferred them to Corymbia (see "Eucalypts; but not Eucalyptus" in the June 1996 issue of "Australian Plants online").

Australian Brachyscomes
The Australian Daisy Study Group; Editor, Judy Barker

271 pages plus colour plates, $AUS24.95

Reviewed by Don Forman, National Herbarium of Victoria

Here is a book that most professional botanists would be proud to have in their curriculum vitae. This edition is limited to 1000 copies and I suspect will quickly become a collectors item. The book is produced in A4 size, a practice which seems to becoming more common these days and is strongly bound in a soft cover.

The first 32 pages of the book are taken up with discussions on the name Brachyscome, the features of the plant, notes on growing, places where members of the ADSG have grown various species and the plant's reproductive habits. The reader is then delighted with the first of two 4-page colour inserts before the main part of the text starts.

Seventy-four species plus a number of varieties and distinctive forms and cultivars are described in some detail. In most cases the descriptions (which are better than you will find in some more expensive Floras) occupying the left-hand page and a well executed line drawing occupying the facing page. In species where there is more variation the descriptions and illustrations flow onto several pages. Included in the illustrations are drawings of the fruits either as an insert on the habit study or sometimes grouped together as separate figures. Drawings of the fruits of 89 brachyscomes have been put together for comparison in a separate chart. The book is worth buying for this alone.

Although this is quite a comprehensive and scholarly work it is not the last word in Brachyscome taxonomy for even as I write this review botanists from Japan and the National Herbarium of Victoria are in Western Australia on field work.

I recommend that if you have the opportunity of buying this book do so even if you have to live on vegemite sandwiches for the rest of the fortnight.

Reprinted from the December 1995 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP.

Note: Copies of the book are available from the Australian Daisy Study Group:
9 Widford Street, Hawthorn East, Victoria 3123, Australia
38 Pinewood Drive, Mt Waverley. 3149, Victoria, Australia

If ordering by mail please add sufficient postage to cater for a book weighing 1200grams.

Wild Lime; Cooking from the bush food garden
Juleigh Robins

Published by Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
210 pages, soft cover, $AUS24.95

Reviewed by Brian Walters

When the Melbourne "Age" newspaper devotes almost one and a half broadsheet pages to a book on Bush Tucker (and its author), itís an indication that Australian food plants are emerging from the niche market and becoming big business.

The main aim of Juleigh Robinís book is to introduce a range of unique Australian foods into everyday cuisine. The book concentrates on about 120 of the more readily available foods, though it recognises that these are, as yet, not likely to be available at the local greengrocer..... if I suggested to my greengrocer that I wanted a bunch of Warrigal Greens, Iíd probably get a suspicious look followed by "a bunch of fives"!

So, if you want to make the best use of this book you will need to be prepared to purchase by mail order and/or grow some of the plants yourself. The basic premise here is that you have obtained your ingredients without going out into the scrub and collecting them yourself!

The fruit of the wild (or desert) lime, Eremocitrus glauca, may be small (10-20mm) compared to the commercial lime but it is packed with flavour. Select the thumbnail image or plant name for a higher resolution image (32k).
Photo: Eric Anderson.

The author is certainly well qualified. She is co-owner of Robins Bush Foods in Melbourne, she is a member of the Federal Governmentís Australian Native Bushfoodís Industry Committee and at the Australian Football League's Centenary Ball, she produced 4000 serves of wild lime and pistachio mousse on native mint sponge!...has the "pav" finally met its match?

Each of the 120 foods are treated in more or less the same way:

  • A brief description of the plant and itís natural distribution, itís usage by aborigines and the extent of cultivation.
  • Cultivation notes (prepared by bushfood gardening consultant Rhys Freeman)
  • Harvesting, storage and cooking.
Several recipes using the particular food either by itself or as a complement to other dishes. The text is well laid out and, unlike traditional cookbooks, is not embellished with countless colour photographs of culinary perfection that no average person could ever replicate. There are also several useful supplementary chapters:

  • Planning a Bushfood Garden
  • Planting Bushfoods
  • Bushfood Suppliers
  • Nurseries and Growing Contacts
  • Conversion Tables
The last mentioned are unlike any conversion tables that you have seen before. Did you know that 700 fruits of Dianella berries equals 100g or that 40 flowers of wild rosella equals 50g?...well I didnít!

And what of the recipes? I thought it would be useful to try one to confirm that the tastes are as good as they seem to be on reading. "Something simple", I reasoned, not just because suitable ingredients were scarce in the larder but also in recognition of my limited skills in this area.

On looking for a suitable dish I came across "Cumbungi" (Typha spp.). Now, one thing I have in abundance is cumbungi. I have cumbungi to excess! I have nightmares about it mutating, leaving the wetland and engulfing the house. So, ever on the lookout to save a buck, I reasoned that if I could whip up something remotely edible out of it, we could not only make dramatic cuts in our grocery bill but eat our way through our weed control problem at the same time. It seemed almost obscenely simple......too good to be true....

...and it was!

"Almost the entire cumbungi can be used", the book claims. Well, I must have got the bit that canít be! After removing the outer fibrous layers as instructed, I had nothing left to cook and when I left some of these layers in place, I almost broke a tooth!

I obviously had stems that were too old but Iím convinced that thereís a meal to be had here (a lot of meals, actually), so I will try again when the new shoots appear.

In spite of my cumbungi problems, the book is excellent. It is clearly laid out, is immensely practical and, although many of the foods will need to be sought out, growers of Australian plants will probably find that they have some in the garden already (e.g. Prostanthera spp., Backhousia citriodora).

My only quibble is not specifically about the book itself. As far as Iím aware, the bush food industry is based mainly on collections from wild plants. I wonder how long this sort of collection is sustainable, environmentally. This is an issue that Iíve never seen discussed by people involved in the industry and it would be interesting to know whether the limits to wild collection are known.

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Australian Plants online - March 1997
The Society for Growing Australian Plants