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W. Arthur Whistler - Tropical Ornamentals: A Guide

If you live in or visit the tropics or thereabouts - and you love plants - this book is for you. For Hawaii visitors and residents it is a must. It is primarily for identification purposes. Every plant has a top-notch photograph. My judge of a good field guide is the quality of the photographs, and here it is consistently excellent. Combine that with an extremely well thought out indexing system (and key,) and the result is very useful.

The written descriptions are quite thorough. Each listing includes the genus and family names, followed by the scientific name and authority, synonymous names, characteristics that distinguish it from other species, and descriptions comprised of physical descriptions, and any poisonous properties and ethnobotanical uses. It even includes propagation and garden use. Tropical gardeners: make sure you take a look at this book. You certainly won't find this photo quality in most books at this price. It makes an excellent resource for seeing the magnificent world of tropical plants and flowers.

In the book are a scattering of what are commonly thought of as temperate-zone plants, such a crysanthemums, daylilies, honeysuckle, asters, cannas, and even goldenrod. Whistler has created a very complete guide. It's amazing what all grows in the tropics.

This is one of the few books that I've seen that really shows the big difference between Monstera deliciosa and Philodendron bipinnatifidum. The pictures leave no doubt as to which is which.

No other book comes close to filling the niche that this book fills. Van Nostrand published a field guide to tropicals back in the seventies, but it's been out of print (and very hard to find) for decades.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this books is the appendix "Twenty Common Plant Families." It is divided by dicots and monocots and provides a world of information successfully. It is a gem of educational writing.

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2000, 0-88192-475-x, 542 pages, color photographs, paperback, $34.95

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