15. Wolf KRETZSCHMAR, Gisela KRETZSCHMAR & Wolfgang
ECCARIUS - Orchideen auf Rhodos. Ein Feldführer durch
die Or-chideenflora der "Insel des Lichts". - Privately
published, Bad Hersfeld, 2001 (ISBN 3-00-007322-1). 240 pages,
maps and photographs in colour, tables; hard cover.
16. Wolf KRETZSCHMAR, Gisela KRETZSCHMAR & Wolfgang
ECCARIUS - Orchideen auf Kreta, Kasos und Karpathos. Ein
Feldführer durch die Orchideenflora der zentralen Inseln
der Südägäis. - Privately published, Bad Hersfeld,
2002 (ISBN 3-00-008878-4). 416 pages, maps and photographs in
colour, tables; hard cover.
Those who, opening these twin volumes expect to find two more
of the well produced, gloriously illustrated orchid picture books
whose number, to the plant lovers delight, is steadily
increasing will not be disappointed. The fascinating world of
south Aegean orchids unfolds before the readers eye in
its unequalled variety and amazing beauty. There can hardly be
a more suitable companion for the keen amateur visiting those
islands in spring time than these books, which fulfil other desiderata
as well, such as advice on excursions commendable for orchid
hunters (with species lists) and identification keys with colour
portraits of single flowers typical for each taxon. Short introductions
on the geology, landscapes and vegetation of each island, with
pictures of a selection of charactenistic representatives of
the fauna and non-orchidaceous flora, are an additional bonus.
[One might note that Campanula saxatilis, allegedly shown
in the book on Rhodes, does not occur on that island; the photograph
is likely to be of a decumbent, mat-forming individual of the
polymorphic C. hagielia.]
So much for the flower book aspect. But there is much more to
Kretzschmar & al.s orchid guides than pleasantness
and aesthetics. To me as a botanist, they come as a real good
surprise. To understand my delight, you have to know that as
a young man I took a lively interest in the orchids of Crete,
primarily Ophrys, as full of mysteries then as they are
now; and that after a thorough study of them in the wild I thought
I had almost grasped them. But then, more recently, with the
steady flood of new descriptions of - for me - unrecognisable
new species, I gave up in despair. Ophrys classification
appeared to have nothing left in common with "normal"
botanical systematics, no link with populations as a biological
reality, of reproductive biology, not even a glimpse of evolutionary
reasoning. Consideration of the plants "mating system"
was reduced to watching the sexual behaviour of greedy male insect
Thanks to these books hope has returned. They are plainly intelligent,
the best in their kind for ages - probably since Nelsons
entirely different works referred to previously. The authors
have their own, precise criteria of classification, they take
the trouble to explain them, and then they proceed and implement
them as coherently as possible. You may or may not concur, but
at least the outcome reflects a coherent vision - which is an
immense progress. The result is still on the splitters
side, but tolerably so. The named units are real populations,
and they are morphologically defined at least within the particular
area considered. The reader is led to recognise each taxon and
understand the criteria used to establish it, both thorough the
descniptive text and a generous selection of pictures that demonstrate
the observed variation.
The authors avoid minimising the difficulties. Morphotypes that
in one area form discrete, recognisable populations, thus meeting
the criteria for distinction at species level, intergrade elsewhere.
Ophrys omegaifera and O. basilissa, distinct in
Crete but not on Rhodes, are an exam-ple - the conclusion being
that they are treated as subspecies of a single species in the
second book (where, contrary to the first one, several rank transfers
are validly proposed). Another problem case is the status of
O. episcopalis with respect to O. holoserica -
but as the later is considered to be absent from the area, that
question has been skipped and no solution is attempted.
In their endeavour to understand the observed. often chaotic
patterns of variation. the authors mention an important point
that I have long felt is obvious yet is seldom if ever spelled
out: the fact that in non-autogamous orchids successful pollination
is a rare event but when it happens has dramatic consequences,
as tens of thousands of seeds with identical parentage are then
produced. This explains the local clusters of individuals sharing
peculiar morphological traits that one so often observes.
These, then, are not mere picture books but real scientific works.
The authors have been led to recognise several new taxa (validated
in parallel elsewhere) that are well documented and appear to
be solidly founded, and to reassess the classification of many
others. There is an impressive, carefully edited bibliography
at the end, and at the beginning the most recent reappraisal
of generic classification based on molecular data is explained:
the merger of Aceras with Orchis and split of the
latter genus into three: Orchis s. str., Neotinea
and Anacamptis. However, the authors wisely refrain from
implementing that new concept in the treatment proper.
The illustrations are a prominent and vitally important feature
of the wonk. The accurate way in which they are documented deserves
equal praise as their beauty, technical perfection and informative
quality: in each case, the locality, date and (in the few cases
in which pictures by others ane used) name of the photographer
are carefully cited. Most of the illustrations represent plants
from within the area, but in a few cases, when none were available,
Turkish or Central European plants are shown - e.g. for Epipogium
aphyllum, reported with circumspect doubt as a new addition
to the Cretan flora. W.G.