14 Feb 2012

Reading with Teza: The Flora of China

guide to the flowers

It was the intoxicating Asian species of the genus Arisaema that first attracted my attention to the intoxicating flora of China. As a country, it is rich in flora, so much so that many consider it to be unrivalled in temperate latitudes of the world. It [China] is roughly the same size as the United States, and is said to contain 12% of the world’s plant biodiversity, constituting roughly 3184 differing genera! The species diversity within China reflects the wide range of habitats and altitudes within China: no other country in the world boasts such diversity of habitat from tropical to subtropical regions to temperate and boreal forests, as well as extensive alpine areas well above the tree line in the West. An example of the vast number of species found within China can be expressed with the following examples: The genus has over 147 species [93 of which are endemic]; Gentiana offers 248 species; [a vast number of which are endemic] Primula offers over 300 species, again, the majority being endemic. The west of the country, with its diverse scenery, lush tropical and subtropical forests offers the richest flora in all of China!

Guide to the Flowers of Western China is said to be the most comprehensive single volume on the flowers of western China ever produced! With over 2700 plant descriptions presented in a systematic order by family, each including the details of habitat, distribution, altitude and flowering time. Accompanying this intensive text is over 2200 accompanying photographs, which culminate in the largest gallery of plants growing in their native habitat to date! Additional keys assist with correct identification, and the book’s introduction offers an in-depth description of the region, its provinces, geology, climate and vegetation.

Christopher Grey-Wilson’s distinguished career has included numerous years as a botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, botanical expeditions the world over and editorship of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, The Plantsman and The Alpoine Gardener. His books include Cyclamen; The Genus Dionysia; The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe; Clematis, and Mediterranean Wild Flowers. As well, he holds the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour.

Phillip Cribb is a leading specialist on the taxonomy and conservation of orchids. He was Deputy Keeper of the Herbarium and Curator of the Orchid Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until his retirement in 2006. A prolific writer, he has authored and contributed to a number of books including The Genus Cymbidium; The Genus Pleione; Orchids of Madagascar; Growing Orchids from Seed; Slipper Orchids of Vietnam; Genera Orchidacearum, and the recently finished The Genus Cypripedium.

Hailed as an important reference work that contains a vast amount of information on the countless Chinese plants that are grown in gardens the world over, for me it is an essential reference guide and comprehensive list of the available plant materials of an area of the world that holds my firmly within its grasp! It is a book that I am confident will contain numerous post it notes, signifying a growing number of new and interesting genera and species that will hopefully one day make their home here within Teza’s Hortus Magnificum! Already I am amazed at the listing of two of my favourite genera: Corydalis and Gentiana!


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