Richard Manuel in HOS Newsletter 24:
Rhodes is one of the nicest places there
is to go and look at Mediterranean orchids. A little 'earlier'
than most localities - so that in theory you get better weather
sooner in the spring - and being located on the Aegaean fringes,
snuggled up close to Turkey - it has a surprisingly wide selection
of species to offer for a small island. The other flowers and
various elements of the Fauna add considerable interest as well.
This book tells you all about the orchids and some of the other
stuff, without too much turgid teutonic text to wade through.
It follows the recent trend of not just showing one close-up
photo of a typical flower, but often a selection of half a dozen
or so, which certainly increases its desirability. Inevitably,
one or two debatable species are included, and it even manages
to squeeze in one not found in Delforge. There is also what I
imagine is a fascinating introductory chapter on the geology
and topography of the island, but my knowledge of German is too
feeble to understand it properly. This is a nice production,
with excellent colour photography, and fills a very useful niche
in the orchid literature.
Richard Bateman in HOS Newsletter (yet to be published):
Some thoughts on regional orchid floras by Richard Bateman
As the number of bocks focusing on terrestrial orchids grows exponentially, I often receive free copies. 1 would like to think that this generosity reflects my role as HOS President, but 1 suspect that lt relates more closely to my still highly controversial (and ongoing) reclassification of European orchids into truly natural genera. Whatever the reason, these Iiterary windfalls have helped me to discern some interesting trends.
The obvious temptation is to analyse in excruciating detail the new edition of what is in danger of becoming the European orchid bible, namely Delforge (2001) (reviewed by Richard Manuel in HOS Newsletter 23, p. 18). Suffice it to say that I preferred the 1994 old testament, wherein the author made (fairly well-) educated guesses at the identities of natural groups, relative to the new testament, wherein he has chosen to ignore the identities of the actual natural groups that have been demonstrated in the interim. Perhaps of greater general interest is the current trans-European bloom of regional orchid floras, most notable for a remarkable improvement in production quality.
British orchid enthusiasts could perhaps identify as the transition point here the glossy volume (associated with the l4th World Orchid Congress in Glasgow and subsidised by the late-lamented HMSO) covering the orchids of Scotland by AIlan et aI. (1993). This was soon followed by a series of well-produced softbacks on the orchid floras of particular counties, most recently Langs (2001) highly personal account of the orchids of Sussex. But over the past year I have been sent no less than seven such volumes from ltaly, France and Greece; of these, four are sound in content and remarkably well presented, yet affordable in price. All feature full colour throughout, and use photographic montages to good effect in illustrating variation within species. Less constructively, all have largely abandoned infraspecific ranks, though all are less prone to taxonomic splitting at species level than Delforge.
The multi-author volume effectively edited by Ferlinghetti (2001) covers the province of Bergamo, which encompasses the south-central ltalian Alps and their foothills. The A4 format allows the high quality of the full-page photographic plates to stand out, but the true value of the bock lies in the remarkable range of information provided about the habitats and ecological interactions of the orchids depicted, reaching details as fine as statistical analyses of altitude and aspect. Sadly (from my viewpoint), the taxonomy remains anachronistic.
This accusation cannot be so easily levelled at the two A5-format semi-softbacks covering eastern Mediterranean islands that were produced in quick succession by Kretzschmar et aI., the first on Rhodes (2001: also reviewed by Richard Manuel in HOS Newsletter 24, pp. 1920) and the second on the Cretan island cluster (2002). These too offer excellent introductory chapters on ecological topics but also include a detailed account of recent taxonomic research, though like Ferlinghetti they fight shy of actually applying that research to the systematic accounts. Distributional data are especially well presented and analysed, and adding postage-stamp sized coloured reproductions of individual flowers to the traditional dichotomous keys is inspired. Moreover, the concluding travelogues describing specific orchid-rich sites will seen persuade readers that any orchidologist who hasnt visited Profitis Ilias on Rhodes, or the Lefka Ori or Kedros Hills on Crete, simply hasnt lived.
The last contribution considered here is an A4.5 softback edited for the French orchid society by Dusak & Pernot (2002) that covers the Paris region (lle-de--France). This follows the general trend in being lavishly illustrated, beautifully formatted and dealing comprehensively with orchid distribution, biology and ecology, but adds for good measure a useful glossary and a district-by-district species list. And miracle of miracles! It not only describes and endorses but also actually applies the new generic classification! Eh bien.
lt is difficult to see hew much more progress can be made in orchid publications in the near future, unless holography improves more rapidly than is generally expected. Some technophiles might consider Web-based publishing a further step forward, but for me the ability to perform keyword searches on virtual bocks does not compensate sufficientiy for the difficulty of reading them in bed. For now, I am thoroughly content with my lot, and eagerly awaiting my next unsolicited unbirthday present.