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Plants Along the Persian Gulf: The Phytochemistry of the Flora of Qatar.
by A.M. Rizk. The Scientific and Applied Research Centre, University of Qatar, P.O. Box 2713, Doha, State of Qatar. 1986. Hardcover. 582 pp. Color plates. $50.

I pride myself in having the best collection of obscure herb books on the block. "Phytochemistry of the Flora of Qatar," I thought, "What a wonderful dust catcher for my top shelf."

How many people even know where Qatar is, let alone have any interest in the phytochemistry of its flora? Qatar is an Arab nation on the Persian Gulf, a peninsula jutting from the northern border of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain sits a few miles north.

The flora of Qatar include only 301 plant species, about the same number as found in the half-mile radius from my Ozark home. Who would have thought that I would have found this book useful in exploring the plants of my backyard?

This book is multitudes richer than the flora of Qatar. It is loaded with detail. It is arranged alphabetically by plant family. Each of the 207 genera of Qatar are described with their known chemistry. Following that come details of each species occurring in Qatar, enumerating its chemistry and potential uses. In one recently published authoritative American herb book, the use of Chickweed (Stellaria media) is categorically dismissed as a plant lacking any scientific backing of therapeutic value. But here, among the plants of Qatar, we learn that the aerial parts of Chickweed contain carboxylic acids, coumarins, hydroxycoumarins, glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, steroids, and triterpene glycosides -- a list of components suggesting the need for further research, not blind dismissal.

The book contains chemical structure graphics of close to 1,600 compounds. Many of the genera and species of the flora of Qatar are well known to Western herbalists and scientists. Still other plants, while not well known in the West, are mainstays of Arab traditional medicine systems. This book is a tremendous resource. If for no other reason, purchase it for the bibliography which includes more than 4,300 titles from the world scientific literature!

Article copyright American Botanical Council.