PACSOA - Palms Throughout the World
Book Reviews
Palms Throughout the World

Author: David L. Jones
1995; 1st edition
hard cover; 270mm x 195mm;
410pp; 330 colour photo pages;
40 black and white photo and illustration pages;

ISBN: 0 7301 0420 6

For sometime there has been a great need for a reasonably comprehensive book dealing with a good range of those palms that are suitable for cultivation. This latest book by David Jones goes a long way towards meeting this need. His previous book "Palms in Australia" covered a fairly limited range of palms (over 300 species) but this latest work includes 800 species with special emphasis on Licuala and Pinanga which between them account for over a hundred of the additional species included. Other genera which have greatly increased coverage include Aiphanes, Brahea, Gronophylum, Ptychosperma, Roystonia, and Syagrus , and a few extra genera are added (Guihaia, Kerriodoxa, Nypa, Ravenea, Roscheria ). Genera such as Areca and Heterospathe have no enlarged coverage and in fact are copied practically word for word from the previous book. This illustrates what may be regarded as a disappointing aspect, the fact that almost the whole of the previous book is included in this one. Certainly a lot of work has gone into ensuring that the most up-to-date names are used but the introductory chapters (the first hundred or so pages) are to a large extent taken straight from "Palms in Australia" with some new material added. (A little over a page on Conservation, a new chapter on the Biology of Palms, a short section on Pollination, while Pests and Diseases is now a separate chapter.) The section on fertilizers has not been updated and still encourages the application of high levels of nitrogen.

In Part Two, "Alphabetical Arrangement of Palms", copying from the older book has led to the inclusion of some errors that should have been corrected. For instance, the statement that Chamaedorea cataractarum "needs shady, moist conditions in well-drained, organically rich soil..." is quite at variance with the fact that I have seen it growing very well and looking good in full sun in poor sandy soil and also in wet, heavy clay soil. Serenoa repens is said to be "rather cold sensitive... and grow best in tropical or warm subtropical regions", which is not true as in the USA it is considered to be of similar cold-hardiness as Chamaerops humilis . It is also stated (again copied from the older book) that Lytocaryum weddellianum "demands a semi-shady to it does not mind full sun and is undamaged by frost down to at least -4C. In some instances mistakes have been corrected such as the assertion in the older book that Rhapidophyllum hystrix is "sensitive to frost" while in the new book it states that it "tolerates very heavy frost (-12C)" or that Bismarckia nobilis grows to 60m in height while the new book revises that to 10m. In at least one case it seems that things have been put together without too much attention to what the final result might be when an item about Wallichia disticha composed of repeated and new material states first that it grows up to 600 m altitude and then that it grows up to about 1200 m altitude.

It is certainly true to say that the new book is much more than just a revision of the previous one and there is so much new material in it that even those who have the old one will want this latest book. You will need to keep the old book though because the excellent section devoted to Australian palms has been deleted. These are now included amongst the exotic palms with considerable loss of detailed information. The alphabetical listing of palms (this book is not really designed for botanists who would prefer a different arrangement) has a short introduction for each genus - a brief description followed by a few sentences under the headings of Cultivation and Propagation - followed by alphabetical listing of the species which gives the name, under it the meaning or origin of the name, then the country of origin, followed by a paragraph about the palm. Sometimes this gives an idea of the size and usually the climatic and cultivation requirements as well as a description of the appearance. Botanical descriptions are lacking as this book is obviously designed mainly for the per half the palms described are illustrated by pictures which is a pity, but obviously there has to be a limit to the size and expense of the book. While the book has its shortcomings and limitations I have no doubt that it is the best book available on the subject. If you have a serious interest in palms you need this book and you will use it often.

Errata: p 309 Pinanga tennella var. tenuissima should be P. tenella var. tenella and the next one P. tenella var. teunissima should be var. tenuissima.

Reviewed by: Will Kraa (from Palms & Cycads, Jul - Sep 1995).

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