This is must-have book for those traveling to tropical Asia. It covers primarily plants of current horticultural interest. It's a great small size (6 by 9) to be a comprehensive field-guide (think Peterson's and Audubon field guides.) It covers over 300 species of plants with color photographs. There are almost 400 photographs, so some plants have more than one photo. And it's got the same user-friendly format that we've become gratefully used to in fine field guides. The arrangement is by type of plant (trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, and bedding plants.) Each of those categories is subdivided by flower, foliage, and fruit. We all know how handy it is to be able to identify a plant by its flower. So do the authors, because under Shrubs the categorization is further broken down by not just the usual red, pink/violet, white, and yellow, but we also find "Color Anomalies." Right there on page 167 is Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Brunfelsia hopeana) --- a very cool anomaly of flowers changing from purple to blue to white over a three-day-period. Also under Shrubs, one of the color categories is lavender/blue. It's a small extra category, but one that shows care by the authors.
It is that degree of care that causes me to recommend this book to those of us who aren't traveling to Asia. Even if you're just traveling around your tropical neighborhood, this book could sure come in handy. The combination of luscious color photos and good descriptions make it a dandy wish book. "Ooh that looks nice. I wonder if I could call around and find one of those for the garden." I showed this book to someone who had been gardening in Hawaii for decades, and here's exactly what they said: " I like this book because it has so much of what is here in Hawaii. It could have been printed just for Hawaii."
It is an extremely useful companion to Tropical Ornamentals by Arthur Whistler, also published by Timber Press. The Whistler book is arranged by botanical name and has more info. Field Guide to Tropical Plants of Asia is, however, the first book to pick up when you just don't know what that plant is you're looking at.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2002, (800) 327-5680, www.timberpress.com, 0-88192-542-X, 280 pages, drawings and color photographs, paperback, $19.95