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Vol. 7(3), pp. 9-10The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalMarch 2006

Book Review: The Orchids of Cuba

P M Brown

Juan Llamacho Olmos (text) and Julio A. Larramendi (photographs) Greta Editores Plaza Mayor, 24 25340 VERDÚ (SPAIN) +34 690 733 011 http://www.gretaeditores.com; info@gretaeditores.com. Cloth. ISBN 84-933615-2-6. Full color photographs, interpretive graphics, table of species, and glossary. Spanish-English in parallel columns. 9.6 x 7 inches; 287 pages; 49.00 Euros. Note: the Euro cost converts to $58.19 + $20 for shipping via air mail from Spain.

Fig. 1. Cover, The Orchids of Cuba

Following a recent trend for regional orchid books to be both scientifically accurate and written in such a manner that they are popular with the non-academic enthusiast, The Orchids of Cuba fulfills a niche that has long been void. This work of two enthusiastic Cubans has produced not only the first full-color book on the orchids of the island archipelago but the first text in English (Spanish/English in parallel columns) that provides an alluring enticement to the island nation. Following an imprimatur by Carlyle A. Luer, M.D. and foreword by James Ackerman, Ph.D. the book starts with the basic biology of orchids and biogeography of Cuba and proceeds to merge the two, describing and illustrating the several regions of the nation. These regions and the orchids found within them are then treated in detail. Of the 305 species documented from Cuba at the writing of the book, more than 150 are treated in detail and, for the most part, have excellent color photographs. Both the author's and photographer's love of the pleurothallids (Lepanthes and related genera) is evident in the spectacular close-up photographs of many of these tiny species. Following the species treatments is a section on undescribed (those species that have not yet been identified and/or described to science) species, with the same high-quality photographs. The book concludes with a table of all 305 species currently found in Cuba, their flowering times and biogeographic distribution, a brief bibliography, and an excellent glossary. What is unfortunately lacking is an index. Because of the arrangement of species it makes it difficult to find specific information quickly. A listing of synonyms for the species treated in full would also have been helpful. No keys to identification are given as this book is, hopefully, just the prelude to more publications covering all of the orchids of Cuba.

From the reviewer's standpoint The Orchids of Cuba has the same problem as most other works that treat orchids from the Caribbean and Central America/Mexico. When ranges are stated the occurrence of the species in the United States, usually Florida, is omitted. In part, this appears to be perpetuated error, as the same omissions occur in several works. Rather than relying on publications from a quarter century or more ago, simply consulting Flora of North America or Wild Orchids of Florida would have solved this problem. Those species included in this work and also documented from Florida include Ionopsis utriculariodes, Prosthechea boothiana, Sacoila lanceolata, Bulbophyllum pachyrachis, Epidendrum nocturnum, Liparis nervosa, Maxillaria crassifolia, Brassia caudate, Eulophia elata, Malaxis spicata, Habenaria distans, Phaius tankervilliae, Vanilla planifolia, Epidendrum radicans, Prescottia opligantha, and Pelexia adnata. Govenia utriculata is erroneously attributed to Florida (Govenia florida is the correct species). From a taxonomic standpoint little issue can be taken other than to note that the treatment and photographs of Habenaria quinqueseta are actually H. macroceratitis (syn. H. quinqueseta var. macroceratitis), and the curious treatment of Sacoila lanceolata and Stenorrhynchos squamulosum. The latter two both should be treated as Sacoila as the most obvious difference between Sacoila and Stenorrhynchos being the presence (in the former) or absence of a mentum (in the latter).

The English translation is excellent and very readable and the only error noted would be the incomplete name or omission of a period after the abbreviation in one of the authors' names: Gal for Galeotti. The book is printed on very high-quality, heavy paper and durably bound. It is to be highly recommended to all interested in the orchids of the Caribbean and south Florida as well.

Copyright © 2006 P M Brown