Book Review

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  • 1 Professor of Horticulture School of Agriculture Western Illinois University

The Timber Press Dictionary of Plant Names. 2010. Walter von Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, and Siegmund Seybold. Edited by Allan Coombes. Timber Press, Portland, OR. 928 pp. $39.95, hardcover. ISBN-13: 9781604691153.

This book is a revised, expanded, and updated version of the original 1927 printing that was published originally in German. The authors and editor have an impressive array of experience, publications, and educational backgrounds that provide a firm foundation for the information provided in this volume.

A wealth of information is packed into this tidy volume that measures 5-1/4 inches by 8-1/4 inches and is 2 inches thick. The alphabetical overview of genera and species begins on page 59 and includes over 20,000 plants. Within a very small space, words, abbreviations, and symbols are used to convey the following information for each plant: geographical distribution (world map is in the back of the book); English, French, and German genera and common names; type of plant (tree, shrub, annual, succulent, etc.); winter hardiness zone; and flowering time. Of course, the authors of species are provided, as are autonyms and families.

In the first 58 pages, an overview of the book, botanical nomenclature, and cultivar listings are provided. In the section devoted to cultivars, groups are given for various genera. For example, 32 groups of chrysanthemums are listed, as are three groups of delphiniums, along with many other specialized groups within other genera. An explanation of abbreviations and symbols clearly lays out how to read and understand the information therein.

Following the comprehensive listing of plant names, there are sections for each of the English, French, and German common names, in alphabetical order. Authors of the plant names are then listed, including birth/death dates. Finally, a bibliography is provided that includes a variety of botanical resources. What is not included are leaf, flower, or fruit descriptions or pictures. There also is not a listing of commonly available cultivars. For these details, a website or pictorial volume would be more useful.

Nevertheless, the information provided in this book makes it essential to any reference library of horticultural or botanical volumes. In addition to botanical nomenclature information, the included horticultural information allows one to determine how a plant may be most appropriately used in the garden or landscape. Symbols are included for plants used in borders, as lianes, in a rockery, or in riparian or aquatic habitats. The symbols also indicate whether plants require winter protection, are used in window boxes, are medicinal or toxic, are used as cut flowers or fruit decoration, or are otherwise useful. There is even a symbol for fragrance. Even though such information is often readily available online, it is not always as comprehensive as the information provided in this volume. It would be difficult to find this level of detail in any other volume, let alone one of such handy dimensions, and reasonable price.

Marietta M. LoehrleinProfessor of Horticulture School of Agriculture Western Illinois University

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