The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda

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The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda

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Buy The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Reference
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Less than 2.5% of all species are covered but it's still a wonderful reference book and a delight to read. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 656 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Ivy Press
ISBN: 978-1782404033

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One in seven flowering plants on earth is an orchid: there are 26,000 species in 749 genera. They flourish in remarkable habitats such as deserts and the Arctic circle, in fact all areas but the most inhospitable. There's a wide range of colours, shapes and scents: they're dramatic, delicate and ingenious in the ways that they've developed not just to survive but to thrive. Tom Mirenda describes them as masters of manipulation and famous for lying and cheating their way to their many evolutionary successes, yet his love of them is as obvious as his respect for the insight they give us into the processes which shaped our world. He hopes that understanding how that has come about will inspire us to conserve what we have.

No book could include all 26,000 species alive today, so the authors have selected 600 to demonstrate the wide rage of orchid diversity and to cover all areas of the globe. We begin with an explanation of what an orchid is, how it has evolved from the Late Cretaceous period (that's roughly 76 to 105 million years ago), its pollination and symbiotic relationship with other plants. There are various threats to wild orchids: poaching is one and human consumption another, although you'll be relieved to hear that Vanilla planifolia is propagated sustainably so you can continue to enjoy your real vanilla ice cream without a guilty conscience. Not all commercial users are as considerate.

The book has exceptionally high production values (it is an Ivy book after all) high quality paper and stunning photographs, but weighty at 2.3kg is you're going to have to hold it. It's a book for the serious lover of orchids and if what you really want is advice on how best to care for your dendrobium or propagate your phalaenopsis then this really is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you want to experience the breathtaking range of plants and habitats then it's invaluable.

We look at the individual orchids under their subfamilies : Apostasioideae, Vanilloideae, Cypripedioideae, Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae. For each orchid we have a life-sized photograph of the flower, the subfamily, tribe and subtribe, native range, habitat, type and placement (such as epiphytic or terrestrial), conservation status and flowering time. There's a handy world map with the location highlighted and the size of the flower and the plant, along with the common and scientific name. Descriptions of the plants are surprisingly accessible for the general reader: I don't have a botanical background, but found that they made good reading, particularly with the support of the glossary at the end of the book. There is also an index of common as well as scientific names.

It's the reviewer's curse to have to work your way through a book, but given a weekend when the garden was sunny it was a pleasure. It is, however, essentially a reference book, but as less than 2.5% of the species are covered it's quite possible that what you're looking for may well not be there. I looked for two and had a 50% success rate. It would be unfair though to make this into a criticism as no book could ever be all things to all orchid lovers.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you're looking to find orchids in the British countryside we can recommend The English Countryside (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts) by Ruth Binney.

Buy The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda at Amazon.com.

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