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The Cactus Family by Edward F. Anderson
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The Cactus Family

by Edward F. Anderson

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“The Cactus Family” is a handsome and impressive publication which lists 1810 species of cacti. The first chapter, Distinctive Features of Cacti, considers what identifies the cactus. Chapter Two: Ethnobotany of Cacti, describes the various practical, religious and recreational uses of a number of cacti. Chapter Three considers the Conservation of Cacti and Chapter Four, the Cultivation of Cacti. Chapter Five discusses the Classification of Cacti. The alphabetically listing the The Cacti commences on page 105 and runs to page 681. The book concludes with Appendix One: MAPS, and Appendix Two: Botanic Gardens and Herbaria with Significant Collections of Cacti; a Glossary; Literature Cited; Index of Scientific Names and Index of Common Names.

The main section The Cacti lists the plants alphabetically by Genera and then species. Each Genera has a general introduction discussing its characteristics, habitat, taxonomy and discovery. The listing for each species includes its date of finding, common names and synonyms, a botanical description and additional relevant information such as comments regarding variation, uses or habitat. Many of the species are illustrated with the illustrations appearing on the same page spread, the majority seem to be of plants in their habitat. The size of the illustrations varies from about 5cm x 8cm (2” x 3”) up to half-page. There are over 1,000 colour photographs in The Cacti section in addition to the many photographs of cacti and their associations in the other chapters.

The presentation is excellent, it is well laid out and the typography adds much to the clarity and understanding of the information; the result is a page which looks appealing and invites reading. The introductory chapters make interesting and informative reading. I was a little surprised that the chapter on cultivation is somewhat brief and prescriptive, and that it does not consider different growing environments enthusiasts have to contend with or availability of materials which must inevitably apply locally; it is nonetheless informative.

The obvious up to date comparison for “The Cactus Family” must be “The New Cactus Lexicon” complied and edited by members of the International Cactaceae Systematics Group. While the latter two volume work does not pretend to be more than a descriptive list of cacti, their being nothing to compare with the first five chapters of “the Cactus Family” it does boast more than twice the number of illustrations, again mostly in habitat. The two publications do not agree 100%; “The New Cactus Lexicon” lists 124 Genera, 1816 species, “The Cactus Family” 125 Genera and 1810 species; and the difference is probably greater as the latter lists some as a separate species which the former considers merely as a form of one variable species. However “The Cactus Family” is the more accessible and certainly the better typographically, “The New Cactus Lexicon” text pages are unappealing and confusing by comparison.

On its own or in comparison, this is a splendid tome and indispensable for any serious collector. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0881924989, Hardcover)

Only now, at the beginning of the new millennium, is there an up-to-date, comprehensive study of the cactus family. This long-awaited, monumental work covers the Cactaceae in an encyclopedic manner, addressing 125 genera and 1810 species. The most comprehensive single resource on the subject available today, it includes more than 1000 color photographs in addition to other illustrations. The introduction to each genus concentrates on the discovery of the cacti, and the improvements in our understanding of them, many of which result from relatively recent investigation. As stated in the foreword, "Cacti have a special fascination all their own. Miniature spiny dwarf cacti less than an inch in diameter are hidden in the arid regions of North and South America; the majestic columns of the giant saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, dominate the deserts of Arizona. Yet all these cacti, given time, offer the surprising paradox of brilliant flowers, their delicacy a striking contrast to the strong spines that keep the viewer at a respectful distance." This remarkable diversity is fully described and illustrated in this authoritative encyclopedia, which is both scientifically accurate and readable. It also includes a chapter by Roger Brown on the cultivation of cacti, making the book even more useful to growers and hobbyists, as well as to taxonomists, ethnobotanists, and conservationists — indeed, anyone interested in succulent plants.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:11 -0400)

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