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Annals of Botany 85: 703704, 2000

doi:10.1006/anbo.2000.1118, available online at on

Book Review
Bryan G. Bowes, ed. 1999. A colour atlas of plant propagation and conservation. 224 pp. London: Manson Publishing Ltd. 29.95 (softback), 48.00 (hardback).
Ideally conservation should be in situ, allowing species to
survive in their natural wild state, free from intervention
and as part of a functioning system. Sadly, as both tropical
and temperate habitats continue to disappear at an
alarming rate, it is becoming increasingly dicult to ensure
the protection of many species in the wild, and their
survival may depend upon their protection and propagation
outside of their natural environment.
A colour atlas of plant propagation and conservation is an
accessible handbook for those interested in the eld of plant
propagation, an essential element of all ex situ conservation
programmes and restoration ecology. This refreshingly slim
and colourful book covers all the main areas of propagation, and succeeds in clearly explaining the background
to the eld and the principle procedures. It also acts as an
excellent reference work for anyone wishing to research
more fully into this eld. As such it will be of great interest
to both specialists and students, and at 29.95 (softback) is
not prohibitively expensive. The book is edited by Bryan
Bowes of the University of Glasgow, UK, with each chapter
written by authorities in the various elds covered.
The introductory chapter (Bryan G. Bowes) is launched
by a quote by John Muir from A thousand mile walk to the
Gulf. John Muir is widely considered to be the father of
conservation, and this short chapter eetingly considers the
development of the conservation ethic and introduces the
main themes in the eld. With the following two chapters it
highlights the need for conservation and the importance of
plant propagation for conservation programmes. It covers
many topics including the development of the Wardian
case, the origins of plant transport across the world and the
Convention on Biological Diversity. However, anyone
wanting an in-depth analysis will be disappointed as
nothing is covered in any detail, the aim being to provide
an interesting light philosophical backdrop for the remainder of the book.
Chapter two (David Rae and David S. Ingram) considers
the rationale of conservation, outlining the many reasons
why we should conserve biodiversity. It emphasizes the
urgent need for action by quoting depressing data from the
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants, which indicates that
34 000 species, or 12.5% of the world's ora, faces extinction. Like all the chapters in the book, the facts are fully
referenced for those who wish to read further, and this
chapter should act as a useful reminder, for those who need
to be reminded, as to why we should bother conserving at all.
Chapter three (Mike Maunder and Alastair Culham)
takes as its starting point the basic component of botanical
diversitythe species, and describes the fantastic variety of
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plant life on earth. It lists the primary causes of humandriven diversity loss and introduces the concept of ex situ
plant collections, illustrating their importance as integral
components of conservation programmes. The importance
of Botanic Gardens as guardians of non-crop wild species is
clearly highlighted in this chapter, and the importance of ex
situ conservation is made more poignant by case studies of
species that have become extinct in the wild e.g. St Helena
redwood (Trochetiopsis erythroxylon), only remaining in
protective custody in cultivation. This chapter concludes by
briey discussing the varied techniques available for
assessing genetic diversity, including the measurement of
morphological and phenetic variation, isozyme and allozyme studies and DNA ngerprinting techniques.
Chapter four (Don Blaxell) focuses on the process of
plant collecting in the eld for scientic, horticultural and
conservation reasons, and functions as a quick and dirty
guide as to how plants can and should be collected. It
emphasizes the great importance of keeping precise
documentation on eld characters and provenance, and
highlights a few of the things that must be considered before
conducting eldworksuch as the acquisition of appropriate permits.
However, the function of this chapter is not to be a plant
collector's bible, but to complete the general background
on plant diversity and ex situ conservation, before the more
technical aspects of plant propagation are considered.
Chapters ve to 13 provide the main meat of the book,
covering a wide range of propagation techniques including
propagation from seeds and seed preservation (chapter ve;
Jose M. Iriondo and Cesar Perez), vegetative propagation
(chapter six; Paul Matthews), in vitro propagation from
non-sterile explants (chapter seven; Bryan G. Bowes),
in vitro culture (chapter eight; M. Clemente Munoz),
in vitro collection (chapter nine; Valerie C. Pence), in vitro
propagation (chapter ten; Michael F. Fay and Eric Bunn)
and in vitro preservation (chapter 11; D. H. Touchell and
K. W. Dixon). These chapters clearly explain the basics of
these techniques and will be easily understood by students.
The nal chapters to this book consider the application
of in vitro culture for the conservation of forest trees (Scott
A. Merkle), anatomical and histological changes in
regenerating plants (Bryan G. Bowes), and a couple of
chapters dedicated to two ecological factors aecting plant
germination and habitat restoration. The rst of these,
chapter fourteen (N. A. C. Brown), takes the fynbos ora as
its focus and considers the importance of re and smoke in
germination and their signicance for conservation, whilst
chapter fteen (Ted St. John) touches on the role of
mycorrhizae in plant communities, the eect of disturbance
on mycorrhizae and restoration of mycorrhizal ecosystems.
The penultimate chapter of the book (David Rae) highlights the conservation of natural populations, giving an
# 2000 Annals of Botany Company


Book Review

overview of the issues and techniques involved in in situ

conservation. It details the many techniques available for
conserving whole ecosystems, including the reintroduction
of cultivated plants back into the wild. It emphasizes the
importance of understanding genetic variation within
populations, plant breeding systems and dispersal mechanisms, upon which the success of any conservation programme depends. The nal chapter (Ghillean T. Prance)
summarizes the ndings of the book, looking at the
importance of both ex situ and in situ conservation, and
listing their limitations.
In short, this is an excellent book. Specialists in the many
elds of plant propagation covered in this book are unlikely
to learn anything new as the level throughout is necessarily
basic, but the detailed references given provide a good basis
for anyone wishing to delve more deeply into the science.

As such the book is certainly a worthwhile addition to

botanical libraries, laboratories focusing on plant propagation, or anyone with an interest in ex situ conservation.
What makes the book all the more attractive are the many
high-quality photographs (over 300) and the accessible text
using simple non-jargonized English. In fact the overall
presentation is excellent. Where technical terms are used
their meaning is dened in a clear glossary. Sadly there is
rather unsatisfactory coverage of the Convention on
Biological Diversity with its profound implications for
those individuals and institutes involved in plant propagation and conservation. A more detailed consideration of
its impact would have been useful, although perhaps this
lies outside the scope of this book which already covers an
extremely wide range of topics.
S. Bridgewater