Thursday, 19 January 2017

Book Reviews Econ Bot Dec 2016

Economic Botany
pp 1–8

Book Review Editor, Wendy L. Applequist
Book Reviews
DOI: 10.1007/s12231-016-9359-6
Cite this article as:
Econ Bot (2016). doi:10.1007/s12231-016-9359-6
Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America, Volumes I and II. Nancy J. Turner. 2014. McGill-Queens University, Montreal, Canada. xxxvii + 554 pp.; xv + 552 pp. (hardcover). USD 125.00. ISBN: 978-0773543805.
Nancy Turner’s monumental Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge has set a lofty standard for comparative ethnobotanical studies. The 2016 Mary W. Klinger Book Award winner integrates Turner’s career–long studies in the Pacific Northwest with related ancillary studies. The two–volume epic comprises four main sections: history, development, management, and ethnobotanical knowledge. Despite its temperate focus, Turner’s treatise covers more than 500 plant species in an area with 50 distinct languages. Not surprisingly, a major strength is the extensive linguistic analyses found throughout the two volumes.
Ancient Pathways documents the ingenuity and innovation of the Pacific Northwest’s first inhabitants through their use of birchbark kettles, cedar canoes, mock–orange arrows, yew harpoon shafts, and many other plant–derived products. More than 40 species have been used for basketry and around 200 species for therapeutic application. A work of this scope is intriguing because it reveals both unique uses and widespread ones. For example, an indigenous name of Salix exigua translates as “rope plant,” similar to the translation of the name of Salix caroliniana in the southeastern USA.
The importance of one species stands out. Thuja plicata, commonly known as western red cedar, has long been a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest as evidenced by its diversity of common names and related terms. Turner, as have others, makes the case that the cultural salience of a plant is revealed by both the structure and number of names for a species. Cedar is also noteworthy for the tree’s spiritual importance in the region. The discussions of cedar also illustrate one of the limitations of Ancient Pathways, albeit an understandable one. It could be called an anthrocentric as opposed to a phytocentric text. To find all uses for a species, such as red cedar, one would have to examine each citation listed in the index.
Plant taxonomists might shudder at the use of old familial names for some taxa (e.g., Allium cernuum as Liliaceae instead of Amaryllidaceae, Camassia quamash as Liliaceae instead of Asparagaceae, and Sambucus racemosa as Caprifoliaceae instead of Adoxaceae) and the lack of author citations. Typographical errors are minimal (one is the misspelling of the specific epithet for chick pea). A few descriptions of plant natural compounds are misleading. For example, “ . . . inulin – a complex sugar comprised of units of fructose and fructans.” Inulin, a type of fructan, refers to several fructose polymers that have a terminal glucose molecule. Nicotine is not narcotic, which depresses the CNS, rather it is a cholinomimetic drug, which stimulates the PNS.
Considering the book’s vast scope, these are insignificant problems. Turner’s work is unique. It synthesizes not just plant use but also plant management, and the cultural significance of both along with other topics including knowledge transmission and spiritual relationships across a significant region. It should be read by all serious ethnobiologists.
Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook. Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, and Mark Nesbitt, editors. 2014. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, Surrey, UK. ix + 406 pp. (paperback). USD 50.00. ISBN 978-1842464984.
Curating Biocultural Collections, a finalist for the 2016 Klinger Book Award, is a comprehensive, extensively and attractively illustrated, affordable, and well–edited text. It likely will expand the concept and locations of biocultural collections for most readers. The book’s nearly 50 contributors (26 chapters) represent a broad range of specialties and include scientific, curatorial, and indigenous perspectives on collections. Biocultural materials include art, artifacts, audio and video recordings, baskets, books and manuscripts, clothing and textiles, DNA samples, herbarium vouchers, living collections, museum specimens, photographs, phytoliths and pollen, seeds, and wood collections.
Wood collections or xylaria are exceedingly important but largely under–appreciated and under–utilized resources. In Chapter 9, Alex Wiedenhoeft notes that vouchering of xylaria specimens only became a common practice in the 1980s. The vital importance of herbaria and herbarium specimens is a recurring theme throughout the book. A related topic that also appears frequently is the requirement for accurate taxonomy. Bennett and Balick (2014) called the correct botanical name, linked to a voucher, “the sine qua non of phytomedical research.” The same principle applies to biocultural collections.
Chapters 10 and 24–26 offer practical suggestions for living as well as artifact–based biocultural collections. Andrew Wyatt notes the all–too–common public presentation of inaccurate data that lacks any cultural content. These will be useful references for both botanical garden and museum curators.
Chapter 17 (“Indigenous Perceptions of Biocultural Collections”) by Jane Mt. Pleasant will be the most controversial chapter for most readers. Nonetheless, it should be read by all as it offers at least one indigenous perspective on collections. Pleasant uncritically, as well as unconvincingly, blames western science for the extinction of indigenous knowledge. There is no doubt, an association between the advancing science and the demise of traditional knowledge. But the author fails to demonstrate that the decline was either the consequence of science or the intent of scientists. Furthemore, Pleasant fails to consider the reciprocal movement of plants and plant knowledge among cultures. Old World plantains have become the staple for many indigenous people in the Neotropics just as New World cassava is the staple of African people. Likewise, introduced plants are frequently incorporated into indigenous pharmacopoeias (e.g., Bennett and Prance 2000).
Biocultural collections are extensive and diverse and are valuable research for scholarship and interpretation. Considering that virtually every history museum has artifacts made from plant–derived material, as well as the many types of cited collections, the audience for this text is vast.
Bennett, B.C. and M.J. Balick. 2014. Does the name really matter? The importance of botanical nomenclature and plant taxonomy in biomedical research. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 152: 387–392.
Bennett, B.C. and G.T. Prance. 2000. Introduced plants in the indigenous pharmacopoeia of northern South America. Economic Botany 54: 90–102.
Ethnobotany of Mexico: Interactions of People and Plants in Mesoamerica. Rafael Liria, Alejandro Casa and José Blancas, eds. 2016 Springer, New York. 900 pp. (hardcover). USD 249.00. ISBN: 978-1-4614-6668-0. Ebook: USD 189.00. ISBN: 978-1-4614-6669-7.
Over the years, overviews on plant use in specific regions have slowly gained momentum around the globe. However, quite often, such volumes have focused on very narrow aspects, e.g., medicinal plant use, food plants, and intellectual property rights issues. Ethnobotany of Mexico is an outstanding example of avoiding such a narrow focus and providing the reader with a broad perspective of all ethnobotanical aspects of a tremendously diverse and fascinating research area. Liria et al. have done an exceptional effort to unite an outstanding group of contributors for this volume.
In 22 chapters, both historic and modern aspects of plant use in Mexico are reported on in profound ways. Chapter 8 takes up questions on sustainability and ecosystem management from a local perspective, while the following five chapters address the very important topic of domestication—very appropriate, given the role of Mexico as center for, e.g., corn and bean domestication. Most importantly, one chapter focuses entirely on the often neglected aspects of ethnobotany of weeds, as well as phytogeographical aspects of domestication.
After this introduction, a further five chapters address some of the most important crops—maize, beans, cotton, Chile peppers, giving the reader an in depth view on each of these species. Finally, the volume does include four chapters specifically dealing with the modern problematic of knowledge loss, conservation of plant genetic resources, GMO introductions, and finally an overview of the implications of international agreements on plant resources for human rights in Mexico.
The editors need to be congratulated for having brought forward a volume that will be the standard for years to come. Policymakers, researchers, and the general public have for the first time a concise but readable overview of the ethnobotany of Mexico. Everyone interested in ethnobotany not only of the target country but also on a global scale will find a wealth of information in this volume.
Overall, Ethnobotany of Mexico is a great example as to how modern ethnobotanical treatises should be structured, and what information they should include. As such, the volume can be the standard by which other publications of this kind will be measured in the future.
The book is presented as both a hardcover edition and ebook, which will allow access for a much wider spectrum of readers, although given its price, it might be out of reach for many. In addition, it is to be hoped that soon a translation to Spanish will be available in order to actually repatriate the information to the country of origin.
Maize for the Gods: Unearthing the 9,000-Year History of Corn. Michael Blake. 2015. University of California Press, Oakland, CA. xiv + 266 pp. (paperback). USD 29.95. ISBN: 978-0520286962.
In The Wealth of Nations, Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith (1776) made two bold assertions:
“New Granada [Colombia], the Yucatan, Paraguay, and the Brazils were, before discovered by the Europeans, inhabited by savage nations, who had neither arts nor agriculture.”
“The colonists carry out with them a knowledge of agriculture and of other useful arts superior to what can grow up of its own accord in the course of many centuries among savage and barbarous nations.”
The Wealth of Nations is still in print and its influence persists. Alan Greenspan (2005) called it “one of the great achievements in human intellectual history.” Economists can debate the book’s merit within their field of inquiry but Smith’s descriptions of New World agriculture are uninformed, erroneous, and ethnocentric. Not only was agriculture well established in the New World at the time of European discovery, its inhabitants had domesticated scores of crops including amaranth, avocado, avocado, cacao, cashew, cassava, chili pepper, common bean, corn, peanut, pineapple, potato, squash, sunflower, sweet potato, and tomato. Four of these, including corn, rank among the top ten world crops.
Michael Blake’s Maize for the Gods, a 2016 Klinger Book Award Finalist, is an accessible, informative, and entertaining treatise on the history of corn in the New World. The book examines maize origin stories, archaeology, diversification and spread, and symbolic value. SEB members should recognize many of the players in the often acrimonious history of corn domestication studies. These include Paul Manglesdorf (SEB president 1963), Garrison Wilkes (president 1984), Walter Galinat (DEB 1994), Hugh Iltis (DEB 1998), and Mary Eubanks (president 2010). John Doebley (1990), an Iltis student, solved the enigma of corn domestication by identifying Zea mays subsp. parviglumis as the teosinte genetically most similar to modern corn. The role of teosinte had been postulated earlier by eminent Russian agronomist Nikolai Vavilov and American Nobel Prize–winner George Beadle in the early 1930s.
Blake recounts recent studies that push the domestication of corn back to 9000 years before present, not long after the first plants were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Yet, it did not become a staple crop for another or 6000 years. Blake also discusses the intriguing role that maize–stalk beer may have played in the history of this renowned crop.
Botanists will quibble over Blake’s use of subspecific epithets as possessives (e.g., parviglumiss) and his use of synonyms when contrasting corn and potato domestication (Solanum andigenum Juz. & Bukasov and Solanum chilotanum Hawkes instead of Solanum tuberosum L.). These taxa are best referred to the S. tuberosum Andigenum Group and the S. tuberosum Chilotanum Group. The discussion of nixtamalization is based on old literature. While the alkaline processing of maize may increase protein content, the main benefit is increased bioavailability of niacin along with higher calcium content and reduction of aflatoxin concentrations (Sefa-Dedeh et al. 2004). The ritualistic importance of corn in the southeastern USA is underrated. The Green Corn Ceremony, briefly mentioned by Blake, is the central focus of most indigenous cultures in the region (e.g., Capron 1953). Nevertheless, Maize for the Gods is a wonderful account of one of the world’s most important crops. It would be a welcome supplement to any economic botany, ethnobotany, or food and culture class reading list.
Capron, L. 1953. Medicine bundles of the Florida Seminole and the Green Corn Dance. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 151(35): 155–210.
Doebley, J. 1990. Molecular evidence and the evolution of maize. Economic Botany 44(3 supplement): 6–27.
Greenspan, A. 2005. Remarks by Chairman Alan Greenspan. Adam Smith Memorial Lecture, Kirkcaldy, Scotland. February 6, 2005. [accessed 28 Oct 2016].
Sefa-Dedeh, S., B. Cornelius, E. Sakyi-Dawson, and E.O. Afoakwa. 2004. Effect of nixtamalization and functional properties of maize. Food Chemistry 86: 317–324.
Smith, A. 1776. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Library of Economics and Liberty. [accessed 30 Oct 2016]
Mediterranean Wild Edible Plants: Ethnobotany and Food Composition Tables. de Cortes Sánchez-Mata, Maria, and Javier Tardío, eds. 2016. Springer, New York. xii + 478 pp (hardcover). USD 129.00. ISBN 978-1-4939-3327-3.
As a region in which many of our crop plants were domesticated and in which crop relatives persist as wild plants, the Mediterranean basin presents an interesting focus for a book on wild edible plants. Spanning 21 countries, numerous ecotypes, and three continents, it is not a narrow focus. The stated aims of the authors are to provide nutritional data, to contribute to the revalorization of wild food species and the preservation of traditional uses, and to improve modern Mediterranean diets. While this book is focused on the Mediterranean basin, the Mediterranean climate of mild wet winters and dry hot summers is found in other countries, so plants covered may be of interest to people looking at novel crops in Mediterranean areas outside of the Mediterranean basin. For example, farming without irrigating is gaining momentum in California and some wild Mediterranean basin plants such as summer purslane (Portulaca oleracea) are suited to cultivation under dry–farming regimes.
An overview of edible wild plants is provided from an assortment of contributors. Given the challenge of reviewing plants from such a large region, coverage of all countries in the Mediterranean basin is not comprehensive, but is reasonable. Perhaps due to the combination of authors, its emphasis is more on the European part of the Mediterranean basin. There is less on the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.
Species covered in the “Ethnobotanical and Food Composition Monographs” were selected on the basis of cultural importance and existence of food composition data. Presentation of information within consistent categories makes that information more useful as it is easy to compare the species covered. Unfortunately that means that many species, which are culturally important and should be included as the main wild plants consumed in the area, are not covered in these monographs because of lack of available data.
The aim of preserving traditional uses might be better supported with the inclusion of more information on population ecologies and impacts of wild harvesting on the species covered, in particular as the Mediterranean is considered to be a biodiversity hotspot—not only a region of diversity but also one where that diversity is considered to be under threat.
Chapters on the contribution of wild plants to dietary intakes do a nice job of connecting the kinds of nutritional data presented in the monographs to functions of those nutrients in the human body. Excellent use is made of photographs, in particular as they are gathered together to illustrate different aspects of one theme. For example, commercial cultivation of golden thistle (Scolymus hispanicus) shows seedlings being grown in seedbeds and planted out and how edible midribs of leaves are bundled and kept in water after harvesting and cleaning.
Overall, if you keep the gaps in coverage in mind and treat this as a reference source that is not comprehensive, a vast amount of pertinent information is crammed into the book.
Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity. Nabhan, Gary Paul, ed. 2016. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. xii + 309 pp. (paperback). USD 29.95. ISBN 978-0-8165-3274-2.
No one has done more than Gary Nabhan to bring the central tenets of ethnobiology to a broad audience. That there is an inextricable link between biological and cultural diversity, that indigenous people often know far more about biological (and, especially, agricultural) diversity than do members of industrialized society, and that global well–being is tied to the well–being of biocultural diversity are constant and consistent themes that have clearly and consistently threaded through most of his writings for well over three decades.
Nabhan first came to the attention of the reading public with his first two lyrical books on the intertwined agricultural and biological diversity on the U.S.–Mexican border: The Desert Smells like Rain (Nabhan, 1982) and Gathering the Desert (Nabhan, 1985). These two volumes charted the path for the more than three dozen books that would follow: Gary in some out–of–the–way locale, conversing with some local folks and revealing layer upon layer of knowledge, mystery, and meaning—a process that continues to and through Ethnobiology for the Future.
The subtitle of this new book is “Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity,” but it could just as accurately have been entitled “A Nabhan Reader.” This volume is an intriguing collection of essays old and new, some written specifically for this volume, others that have been published as blogs or in both mainstream and more obscure places. Nabhan is the sole author of seven of the 20 pieces; the rest are coauthored with other ethnobiologists, ecologists, geographers, historians, food historians, and Native American colleagues (mind you, most of the authors fit in more than one of these categories). With Gary as a guide and teacher, the reader travels from Arizona to Oman; from the Sea of Cortez to the Indian Ocean—with many stops along the way. And extraordinary characters appear: Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Java Man, E.O. Wilson, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Nikolai Vavilov, to name just a few.
Nor is this book limited to plants: as appropriate for a volume devoted to ethnobiology, condors, hawkmoths, oysters, scallops, sea turtles, and other creatures feature prominently, always in the context of their role within the ecosystem and the local knowledge about their place in the web of life.
In an age where indigenous cultures face rapid change, and when primary ecosystems face growing threats, one might wonder not only what is the future of ethnobiology but also whether there is a future for ethnobiology. Nabhan addresses this head on in a powerful opening essay entitled, “Letter to Young Ethnobiologists.” (spoiler: there is!) From there, Gary and his colleagues focus on three major issues: redefining ethnobiology, showing how and why ethnobiology is essential to biocultural conservation, and how to broaden the appeal and impact of ethnobiology.
In short, this book will be devoured by all fellow Nabhanophiles and should be read by all those interested in food, culture, conservation, botany, and the worlds around them. So chock full of great ideas, penetrating insights and unforgettable landscapes is this book, however, that it should be savored slowly like the fine feast it is!
Nabhan, G.P. 1982. The desert smells like rain: a naturalist in Papago Indian country. North Point Press, San Francisco, California.
Nabhan, G.P. 1985. Gathering the desert. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.
Ethnobotany of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. Phillips, Patricia Whereat. 2016. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis. xv + 147 pp. (softcover). USD 22.95. ISBN 978-0-87071-852-6.
Steeped in indigenous language and ways of knowing, Patricia Whereat Phillips has written a remarkable ethnobotanical survey of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. This work most fundamentally represents a collection of what “the knowledge holders” know, as emphasized in the foreword by Nancy J. Turner. In a rigorous blending of epistemological approaches, the words of living indigenous people are blended with botanical analysis, archaeology, and ethnohistory to reconstruct a vital plant culture.
In four short chapters proceeding the plant descriptions, Phillips outlines the cultural and linguistic context of the communities under study, as well as the history of the ethnographic accounts she draws from. The Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw are closely related tribes living along the central and southern Oregon coast. Traditionally, people moved seasonally upriver from coastal and estuarine villages to fish and gather plants for food and medicine. Women were the primary gatherers and held knowledge related to foraging sites and landscape management practices, enhancing an already productive region through controlled burns and annual soil aeration. Plant foods and medicines included a diverse suite of berries, roots and tubers, wild greens, fungi, and marine plants. Wood from cedar, spruce, fir, and other trees was used traditionally to make tools, fishing weirs, and canoes. Baskets and ropes were crafted from hazel, willow, conifer roots, bark, rushes, and grasses.
Phillips helpfully divides the descriptive section into general classes—trees, shrubs, forbs, ferns, fern allies, mosses, and fungi and seaweeds. Each description goes beyond traits and habitat, highlighting traditional uses as well as the cosmological significance of a given plant where applicable. Personal memories from ethnographic informants bring vitality to the plant world described. Phillips’s attention to language is another notable feature of the study. Three languages—Hanis, Milluk, and Siuslaw—are spoken by the tribes, and native plant names are included where available, celebrating a rich tradition and bringing another dimension of traditional knowledge to the reader.
This work builds on a project previously initiated by the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw and serves as an admirable example of community–based ethnobotanical research. It was written not only for an outside audience but also to preserve knowledge for the indigenous communities themselves. This additional and more human imperative is palpable throughout, both in the accessible presentation of information and the opening sections that provide cultural context. Drawing from her Milluk Coos heritage, Phillips shares her “connection to a place and a family history” with readers, rendering her work valuable far beyond its botanical utility.
Plantes Remarquables du Vanuatu. Remarkable Plants of Vanuatu. Ramon, Laurence, and Chanel Sam. 2015. Biotope Editions, Mèze, France, and New York Botanical Garden Press, New York. 256 pp. (paperback). EUR 30.00, USD 35.00. ISBN 978-0-89327-544-0.
Walking in a city park, in the woods, or in a forest trying to identify plants and trees can be an amusing game not only for plant taxonomists but also for everyday nature observers who like to find recurrent patterns in tree’s foliage or flower shapes. The practice of identifying and naming living organisms is an ancient one. Since classical antiquity, naturalists such as Theophrastus, Pliny, and Dioscorides collected information on plants. While their descriptions are often detailed, it is not always clear what they were referring to. As a matter of fact, describing a plant can be a challenging task that, however, if not supported by the use of images risks being a material restricted to a specialist audience.
Modern floras offer an indispensable tool for those who enjoy identifying and naming species of the plant world, and in this respect, The remarkable plants of Vanuatu is a virtuous exercise that deserves to be acknowledged and praised. The book is a collection of beautiful drawings and essential notes for the identification of the most remarkable plants present on the islands of Vanuatu. It is a refreshing work where climbing vines, prickly pods, hanging flowers, and leathery leaves are skillfully collected by Chanel Sam and beautifully rendered by the drawings of Laurence Ramon. In effect, it is a fine work of art and science.
The book has a dual purpose: on the one hand, as the title suggests, it is a compilation of plants chosen for their remarkable features; on the other hand, it is a contribution towards the conservation of the linguistic knowledge of these plants. In addition to their physical description, notes on the medicinal and ornamental use are provided, and each species is identified also by its scientific, vernacular, and common name in French, English, and the local language Bislama.
As discussed in the introduction, the islands of Vanuatu are truly oceanic islands that have never been connected with continental landmasses and where the vegetation was brought by sea, wind, birds, and bats mainly not only from northwest but also from the south. Due to Vanuatu’s geological origins and geographical position, the vegetation on the Vanuatu archipelago is younger and less diverse than that found in neighboring islands. And yet, it is still quite rich in remarkable endemic species.
The book, written both in French and in English, is well structured. It is organized in two main sections: seed–producing plants and spore–bearing plants, each of them divided in subgroups that collect plants according to their growth form: trees, shrubs, herbs and vines, and ferns and lycophytes. For easy reference, each subgroup is marked on the edge of the book by a different color. This book is useful not only to an academic audience but also to those who love looking at nature with a curious and attentive eye, so that if you happen to be in Vanuatu, or conversely, if you are looking for an excuse to visit an exotic island in the Pacific, then this is the right book for you.
Medicinal Plants and Malaria: Applications, Trends, and Prospects. Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times, vol. 16. Teng, Woon-Chien, Ho Han Kiat, Rossarin Suwanarusk, and Hwee-Ling Koh. 2016. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. xxviii + 472 pp. (hardcover). USD 89.95. ISBN 978-1-4987-4467-6.
This ethnobotanical text is a timely and much–needed modern addition to the study of malaria and its treatment. The book is well–paced and organically structured. It begins by familiarizing the reader with the public health implications and pathogenesis of malaria then explores the current state of antimalarial medication and antimalarial ethnobotany. Also included is a biochemical examination of four medicinal plants with antiplasmodial components. Overall, the authors describe 1800 botanical species in a series of exhaustive appendices, which serve as useful reviews of relevant existing ethnobotanical literature. The text’s content is both well–paced and well–organized.
In the first pages of the book, the authors explain that “the resources are not vetted” (p. xxiv) so the reader must take it upon herself to determine whether the book is a reliable source of information. This disclaimer, while somewhat jarring in an academic text, is a useful reminder to the reader that the study of malaria and its treatment is a rapidly changing one, given the rate of antimalarial resistance in endemic regions. Taking this into account, this book would be well at home in the research libraries and personal bookshelves of undergraduate biologists and professional researchers alike. It provides a uniquely comprehensive look at malarial research with a language and structure that is accessible to scholars of any level of experience.
A not insignificant issue is that the book has been printed so that a strip of ink is missing on nearly every left page in the book. This is mostly just a distracting nuisance but it has served in some instances to obscure some tabulated information beyond comprehension. This has hopefully been corrected in subsequent print runs, in which case I recommend purchasing a later printing of the book for academic use.
Indian Ethnobotany – Bibliography of 21st Century (2001–2015). Jain, Anita, and S. K. Jain. 2016. Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, India. viii + 208 pp. (hardcover). INR 1850.00, USD 62.00. ISBN 978-81-7233-994-4.
This work is devoted to a list, alphabetized by first author, of 2485 publications relating to Indian ethnobotany, most published between 2001 and 2015. Works that are “mainly anthropological” or “primarily botanical” are excluded. The authors explain in a brief preface that two previously published bibliographies recorded Indian ethnobotanical literature from before 1982 and up to 2000, so that only a few references from those time periods are included in this book. The difficulty of creating a complete list can be deduced from the fact that references 2349 through 2485 are in an addendum.
The volume includes three indices, all directing readers to numbered references. The first is to junior authors by last name (since first authors can be as easily looked up in the text itself). A second index compiles names of communities and ethnic groups. A third, relatively short, indexes selected keywords for some papers, which are usually quite specific, often species names. Broad topics such as “agriculture,” “conservation,” or “edible plants” are not indexed, nor are some specific topics mentioned in individual paper titles, such as “epilepsy” or “sacred groves” (though most recent literature on the latter topic did not meet inclusion criteria). This means that while the book contains a great deal of information, it is sometimes difficult to access, as the reader interested in a specific subject may only be able to look up known authors or browse at random.
Taxonomy of Mycotoxigenic Fungi. Girisham, S., V. Koteswara Rao, and S. M. Reddy. 2016. Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, India. viii + 317 pp. (hardcover). INR 1950.00, USD 65.00. ISBN 978-81-7233-986-9.
This work may not seem relevant to most readers of Economic Botany. However, the health damage and economic losses caused by toxic fungi are certainly of interest to economic botanists, and major disease outbreaks caused by tainted staple crops may also interest some ethnobotanists.
Most of the book is occupied with descriptions of mycotoxigenic fungi belonging to 65 genera, which include taxonomic position, synonyms, and known teleomorphs, morphological characters and diagnostic features, and reported toxins. The treatments of large genera such as Aspergillus and Penicillium include keys to infrageneric groups or toxic species, summaries of taxonomic literature, and other added information. There are numerous line drawings, which are generally quite good, and black–and–white photographs.
The book also includes informative chapters on isolation and culture, molecular detection and identification, and pleomorphism, as well as an overall key to the included genera. The English is imperfect and could have used better editing. Nevertheless, the book is quite information–dense and would certainly be a useful resource to anyone whose work involved the investigation of fungi growing on food plants.

Copyright information