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Plants of the Rio Grande Delta.
Alfred Richardson. 1995. Austin: University of Texas Press. 333 pages, 94 color plates. (224 color photos). ISBN 0-292-77070-7. $24.95.

Plants of the Rio Grande Delta is a welcome addition to the Texas Natural History Field Guides Series. This field guide encompasses all of the borderland native plants that grow in the Rio Grande Delta (the three southernmost counties of Texas as well as northern Tamaulipas in Mexico). This book describes the 854 species (excluding the grasses) that inhabit this botanically rich area. As Dr. Richardson notes in his introduction, "The wide variety of habitats and overlapping vegetative zones plus the climate account for this large number of species. On the border between Mexico and the United States there is a narrow band of `river bottom' vegetation which follows the Rio Grande. To the east are plants of the gulf coast, marshes, and prairies. The western border marks the beginning of the more xeric conditions of Starr and Zapata counties. The central portion of the delta contains plants from the three zones mentioned plus elements of the South Texas Plains Flora."

This book is as "user-friendly"as a field guide can be for both casual and professional botanists. The often confusing botanical terminology is vastly simplified, the Keys to Plant Families focus on easily observed characters, the species descriptions are succinct and interspersed with taxonomically useful line drawings and a glossary is provided to explain unfamiliar botanical terms. A brief description of each species, along with its range, habitat, and general blooming time is provided. For species-rich genera, there are additional keys within to identify species. Excellent quality color photographs of 224 of the species provide a visual sampling of the vast array of plant diversity encountered in the Rio Grande Delta. Not only do these photos help with identification, but they invite the naturalist to pay a visit to this strikingly unique ecosystem.

There is little doubt that Plants of the Rio Grande Delta will find its place as a standard reference to the plants of south Texas and northeastern Mexico. Libraries, natural resource centers, and governmental agencies would be wise to put this guide on their bookshelves while it is still available.

This review appeared originally in the Useful Wild Plants Newsletter, Fall, 1995. Reprinted with the permission of the Useful Wild Plants of Texas, Inc.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Karen H. Clary