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A Good Read

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

Reviews in this issue cover "Wildflowers of Southern Western Australia" by Margaret Corrick and Bruce Fuhrer, "Plant Identification in the Arid Zone" by Jenny Milson and "Field Guide to the Orchids of New South Wales and Victoria" by Tony Bishop. Books Diagram

Wildflowers of Southern Western Australia
Margaret Corrick and Bruce A.Fuhrer. Edited by Alexander S.George

Hardcover, Five Mile Press in association with Monash University, 1996.

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh.

Why yet another book on the flora of Western Australia? A good question but one which I believe is admirably answered by the stunning photographs of 755 of some of the West's most spectacular flowers. This is the best book I have seen for consistent high quality of flower illustrations which can be used for identification purposes. What is even more remarkable is that some pictures are quite small, 35 x 55 mm, yet they lose nothing of their clarity. Bruce Fuhrer, with more than 25 years experience of photographing flowers, fungi and seaweeds, shows how high quality, sharp close-ups and habitat views can capture the essential identifying characteristics of a plant.

The authors have adopted an unusual approach in grouping the plants in families in alphabetical order rather than the more traditional methods of arranging them by genus under habitat (as in "Flowers and Plants of Western Australia" by Erickson et al) or by area of Western Australia (as in "Discovering the Wildflowers of Western Australia" by M. Pieroni). I am not sure that for the lay person that this is the best approach and it would be interesting to have feedback from users.

To cover 755 species in some 220 pages means that botanical descriptions are kept short. The format followed for each is to give the botanical name and author(s), common name, an indication of the size of the plant, leaf dimensions, flower size and habitat details. Plant distributions (largely based on herbarium specimens) are keyed to the botanical districts of Western Australia given in two maps at the beginning of the book.

The book also includes a glossary of botanical terms and an index to families and species illustrated. This does not include common names and I believe that a common name index would increase the usefulness of the book considerably.

To put the flora and its relationship with the geology of Western Australia into context, Alex George has written an introductory essay which is one of the strengths of the book. Another strength is the accuracy of plant identification. Most of the photographs are supported by herbarium specimens lodged in the National Herbarium of Victoria where Margaret Corrick was for a number of years curator. Species names are current and include, for example, recently described grevilleas, dryandras and synapheas.

I highly recommend this book if for no other reason than the superb quality of the photography. And the authors have made it easy for us to see these plants by choosing specimens growing mainly on roadsides accessible to conventional vehicles.

A "MUST'' for W.A. plant enthusiasts.

Reprinted from the December 1996 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP.


Plant Identification in the Arid Zone
Jenny Milson

Published by Department of Primary Industries, Queensland

Reviewed by Lorna Murray.

This book was designed to help land managers, staff from DPI and other government bodies, school children, tourists and nature enthusiasts to identify the more common plants of the western region of Queensland. Plants chosen include those which indicate pasture health and those which are the most dominant or of economic importance. The general arrangement would seem to satisfy these aims very well, as it is a publication which can be easily used by the amateur naturalist.

A map shows the area of the state covered by this manual. The introduction gives a brief but useful description of the land types of the region, and colour codes are used with the individual plant descriptions to show the land types in which the plant commonly occurs. Recent name changes to plants in the manual are given and there is a very comprehensive list of references for those wanting more information.

Plants are discussed in the four topics of weeds, grasses and grass-like plants, forbs, lilies and ferns, and trees and shrubs. Within each of sections plants are arranged in order of family, thus allowing similar species to be shown together. The comprehensive index of scientific and common names provides easy reference to any particular plant.

There is a good general description of each of the species included in the book. The colour photographs of the plants, a last one for each species discussed are generally of good quality and in many instances one or more smaller photos show a close-up view of part of the plant. Perhaps one small criticism could be that this was not done on some occasions where a closer view of flower or foliage would help, as good colour photographs are very useful to the amateur for plant identification.

The 220 plant species selected for this publication give a good coverage of the main components of the flora of the region. Although the book seems to be basically designed for graziers, the selection of plants is such that it is a very useful manual to assist the amateur naturalist visiting these areas. It is highly recommended as a field guide to assist anyone in identification of the plants seen, and as a general reference to the types of plant communities in the arid zone in Queensland.

Reprinted from the June 1997 issue of the Bulletin published by the Queensland Region of SGAP.


Field Guide to the Orchids of NSW and Victoria
Tony Bishop

Published by University of New South Wales Press, 22-32 King Street, Randwick NSW 2031.

Reviewed by John Moye.

Not until David Jones wrote "Native Orchids of Australia" in 1988, had there been a comprehensive study made of all known Australian native orchids.

True, Alex Dockrill's "Australian Indigenous Orchids" (1969) was regarded by many as the orchid lovers' bible, but for a long time Part 1 was the only edition available. For many this book was inadequate in that it covered mainly epiphytic species and only those terrestrials of tropical or sub-tropical areas.

Jones' book treats booth terrestrial and epiphytic species but is a cumbersome volume and certainly not one to carry around in a pack while bush rambling. This requirement has now been met.

The recently published book "Field Guide to the Orchids of NSW and Victoria" fills this need admirably. Although of 250-odd pages, at 140 x 200 mm in size and weighing about 500 gms, it fits into even a modest backpack.

Field guides are, as the name implies, books to be consulted in the field. This is especially important when studying native orchids as many species are protected plants and the taking of samples for identification later on, is a definite no-no.

The Guide covers more than 500 species which are known to occur in NSW, ACT, and Victoria and is divided into two sections. Descriptions of individual species occupy most of Part I, but each description is complemented by an excellent coloured photo. These are grouped according to genus, enabling easy visual comparisons of species.

Section 2 contains the Keys. One set is of the genera, the second of species within each genus. For many this section may be superfluous - indeed, I feel that many species might easily be identified by the coloured photographs only.

This book is highly recommended and should be in the library of all lovers of Australian plants, and in the backpack of all ramblers.

Reprinted from the March 1997 issue of the newsletter of the Far North Coast (NSW) Group of SGAP.


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