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From A to Z in Phytochemistry: Dictionary of Plants Containing Secondary Metabolites.
John S. Glasby. Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1900 Frost Road, Suite 101, Bristol, PA 19007. 1991. 488 pp. Hardcover. $199.00. ISBN 0-85066-423-3.

Amidst the plethora of medicinal plant-related books published each year, a few titles stand out, some like icons of excellence, others like sore thumbs. The Dictionary is a little of both. Those looking for quick reference information on the classes of compounds and specific components identified from a broad range of medicinal plants will find this book all extremely useful reference. Arranged alphabetically by genus and species, Glasby's Dictionary provides a listing of compound class, compounds, and literature references for an estimated 9,200 species (averaging the number of species per page over 10 pages, multiplied by 348 pages of entries). The book covers the literature up until 1987. Since definitive chemical literature supported by voucher specimens has only been conducted since that time on plant groups, such as Echinacea, for example, one must remember the book's date limitations. The chemical references under each species are by no means complete, but use of the bo ok will save hours of expensive computer and library search time.

Unfortunately, the book suffers from glaring botanical deficiencies and careless inconsistencies. Some binomials include botanical authorities, many do not. Family names may be listed in parentheses after the genus name heading, often they are not. Nomenclature is sometimes confused. The separate genera of the aster family Atractylis and Atractylodes are erroneously treated as synonymous. As Jim Duke pointed out to me, "maguey," the Spanish common name for various Agave spp., is listed as a genus of the Agavaceae, followed by various Spanish epithets as "species" names!

The book will be very useful to all with an interest in phytochemistry, especially if one takes the time to double check the taxa cited, which unfortunately the editors did not do. And, with a price tag of $199, your interest in phytochemistry will need to be serious.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.