David W. Kramer kramer.8 at OSU.EDU
Tue Nov 4 17:18:17 EST 1997

In article <l03020902b083c0feffa2@[]>,
Scott_Shumway at wheatonma.edu (Scott Shumway) wrote:

> I just received an ad for the first three volumes of "Flora of North
> America" published by Oxford University Press.  Wheaton College is a small
> undergraduate college.  None of our faculty are conducting research on
> plant taxonomy.  Has anyone reviewed this series?  Is it likely to be
> utilized (and understood) by undergraduates?  Has it been a worthwhile
> addition to your library collection (and should I order it for mine)?
> Our library is already stocked with floras that have not been opened by
> anyone for decades and I want to avoid adding to this collection of dust
> collectors.  Any and all opinions will be appreciated.

I agree with Jim Manhart's response:  Hire a taxonomist!  However, the
answer isn't quite so easy.  First, Flora of North America is being
compiled by some of the best taxonomists in the world.  Specialists are
writing the various sections.  You need to consider, however, that when
finished it will be a "taxonomist's flora", that is, suitable for
professional botanists and advanced students but hardly accessible to most
undergraduates.  Since it covers all of the US and Canada (it excludes
Mexico), it includes a large number of species that do not grow in a local
area and thus has many species that students need to wade through before
identifying the plant in hand (but distribution maps for each species are a
big help).

If Volume 2 is representative of those to follow, the Flora will adopt new
names for many common plants.  For example, in Vol 2 there are many name
changes in the Lycopodiaceae such as Lycopodium lucidulum is now Huperzia
lucidula, Lycopodium digitatum is Diphasiastrum digitatum, etc. The Flora
itself is not responsible for any name changes, it merely is reflecting the
changes proposed most recently by respected authorities.  Assuming that its
taxonomy is accepted, the Flora will become a handy reference on the
correct names of plants, at least until newer technologies again change our
understanding of phylogeny.  Even non-taxonomists will have to consult it
to be sure they are using the correct names of the species when they write
textbooks or any scientific papers in which plant names are mentioned.  So
one could safely assume that this will be a central reference work for many
scholars of plant biology.

Three volumes have been published but the plan is for the Flora to be
published in 14 VOLUMES of approximately 500 pages each.  This is a massive
work not only in terms of shelf space, and cost (the first three volumes
are priced at approximately $70 each) to the owners but certainly also a
massive undertaking in terms of the number of people involved over decades
of time.  The project is capably orchestrated by Nancy Morin and a team of
experts at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I think every institution that is serious about offering courses in plant
biology will want to purchase the Flora.

Dr. David W. Kramer
Department of Plant Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
(419) 755-4344  FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 at osu.edu

More information about the Plant-ed mailing list