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Plants and Their Names - A Concise Dictionary.
by Roger Hyam and Richard Pankhurst. Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016. 1995. 545 pp. Hardcover. $29.95. ISBN 0-19-866189-4. Available from ABC Books Item #B146.

Plants and Their Names is promoted as a complete reference source to 16,000 of the more commonly occurring scientific and vernacular plant names. In an alphabetical format, it provides information on family names, genus names, and species names, as well as common names, their origins and characteristics. Under scientific family names, we are given the common family name, the number of genera and species that are associated with it, and a basic description of the key features of the family. This provides excellent quick reference information on the essential details a non-botanist may wish to know about a plant group. Names used as specific epithets (the second word of a Latin binomial or scientific name) are defined in short, clear terms. "Aperifera," for example, means "bee bearing: the flowers resemble bees." These wonderful short definitions help bring scientific names down to earth, making them accessible not only to the lay reader but the harried scientist as well. This us eful guide brings the names into context, taking them out of archaic little used classical languages into meaningful words for the modem user. Under genus entries, we are given information on the number of species in the group, short descriptive phrases, their general distribution, and the family to which they belong. The generic entries often begin with the word origin of the name, which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of the book. Unfortunately, however, the authors have been inconsistent in providing definitions. Some genera have word origins, others don't.

Those who use plant names as a daily part of life will find this a helpful, useful, even entertaining volume, worth having as a general reference alongside other dictionaries.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Steven Foster