World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference
Mugendi, Daniel N.
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Use of scientific (Latin) names of living organisms is a basic norm in all scientific literature. Yet, to write these names correctly is a daunting task for not only the novices, but even seasoned professionals. This is particularly true in agroforestry literature, where we often deal with little-known and underexploited species. Many authors have a tendency to refer to them with common or parochial names only. But different plants may have the same common name and the same plant may have different common names in different places. Furthermore, as knowledge evolves continuously, the Latin names of some of the plants, especially the little-studied ones that are common in agroforestry, may be revised according to the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Therefore, it is essential that unambiguous and currently accepted Latin names of plants are given in scientific literature and even in international commerce. Authoritative books and well-researched reference materials that accurately give this information, though a must for scientific writing, are hard to find. This remarkable book fills that void. It is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive publication, which contains taxonomic information for nearly 10,000 species of economically important vascular plants from all over the world. That the book was reviewed before its publication by 150 specialists is a feature that most other publications cannot claim. The book contains two major parts, each arranged alphabetically. The first, 536 pages long, is the ‘Catalog of Economic Plants.’ It contains scientific names of vascular plants along with associated data such as synonymy, common names, economic impacts, and geographical distributions. The second part, the ‘Index to Common Names,’ is 213 pages of information in small print, providing a list of 19,200 common names, including nearly 7,500 non-English derivations, of the plants included in Part one. Thus, starting from a common name of a plant, a user can locate its relevant botanical data in Part one. As already mentioned, a reference book of this nature is a must for all agroforestry students and researchers. Almost all the trees that this reviewer has looked for randomly are listed in the book. If some are not (e.g., Allophyllus africanus P. Beauv., Conocarpus lancifolius Engl., and Rothmania spp.), it could well be that the species have undergone name changes, about which the reviewer is not aware. Admittedly, the common names are not exhaustive, especially when it comes to non- English derivations; but it is almost impossible, nor is it necessary, to list all the innumerable local names of all the species in a compilation like this. Readers need to be cautioned, however, that this book is not a species-identification guide. The hard-bound book is very well produced. Its consistency of formatting is admirable. All in all, it is an invaluable reference book. By producing this book, its authors and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture that supported the compilation of the book have provided an outstanding service to plant-research community all over the world.