The Genera of Araceae by S. J. Mayo, J. Bogner and P. C. Boyce Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 1997 This book is the first complete taxonomic treatment in English of the Araceae, a large plant family of 105 genera and over 3,300 species. The aroids are very diverse in the humid tropics and include many of the world’s most popular ornamental plants. Every genus is described and illustrated with one or more plates of original line drawings by the renowned botanical artist Eleanor Catherine, as well as range maps and 94 colour photos. There are general chapters on many topics, including economic botany, phylogenetic relationships, fossils, cultivation and detailed reviews of anatomy (by J. C. French) and chemistry (by R. Hegnauer). xii + 370pp. 296 x 213mm. Hard cover ISBN 1 900347 22 9


It has been almost 150 years since H.W. Schott published his monumental Genera Aroidearum (The Genera of Araceae). A new treatment of the family has been a desideratum for a century and urgently needed during the last fifty years. What has been particularly needed is an illustrated work that can be used by anyone to recognize unknowns and help learn the terms necessary for accurate understanding of the taxa.

It is often taken for granted that the family is more or less completely known and information is readily available. The first problem is that the keystone works by Schott (1794-1865) and Engler (1844-1930) are expensive, if available for purchase, and not to be found in public libraries. If you are fortunate enough to find them, you discover the second problem. They are in Latin!

In spite of such problems there has been a revival of interest in the family. An astonishing number of workers have been studying plants in the field and cultivation and applying new and sophisticated techniques. New tools, such as the scanning electron microscope (which revolutionized comparative study of pollen) and techniques, such as molecular systematics and cladistics, have revolutionized thinking about relationships.

At last it has been possible to stimulate three people, scarcely more than entering middle life and with all the necessary modern training, to collaborate and synthesize what is known about the genera of Araceae, including at least one crisp, fresh and new full page drawing of each genus. Comparison of this work with its predecessor shows the distance we have travelled.

Do not think that the last word has been spoken. New species, even genera, are still turning up and some of them are testing the hypotheses that we wish were facts.

 Dan H. Nicolson, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. March 1994