This is a totally new type of field guide. Using his pragmatic field abilities, Dr. Gentry has provided a novel approach to identification when flowering and fruiting materials are absent -- often the case when collecting in the tropics -- by using sterile vegetative characteristics such as leaves, bark, wood, and odor as guides to generic and family determinations. His often unique descriptions and keys emphasizing leaf morphology thereby allow the naming of many plants correctly to genus, which would otherwise be impossible. Mr. Vásquez's drawings are also a great help in finalizing determinations.
All plant families which contain woody, epiphytic, or scandent species in northwestern South America are found in this treatment, even if most of their species are herbaceous. Thus many herbaceous genera are also incorporated. According to Dr. Gentry, most neotropical plants are surprisingly easy to identify to family, even in a sterile condition. Indeed, with his guide, we stand a chance to live up to his expectations of sorting through the maze of tens of thousands of species to be encountered there, but without it I suggest that it is an impossible task for the majority of botanists. Dr. Gentry has therefore provided science with an invaluable field-oriented manual, a totally indispensable tool for those working in the neotropics and particularly in northern South America.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Walter H. Lewis