Orchid Society of Great Britain Journal BOOK REVIEW Orchids of Madagascar

BOOK REVIEW – Orchid Society of Great Britain Journal,
Volume 56 (4) 2007/2008, page 236
Orchids of Madagascar, Second Edition
Johan and Clare Hermans, David Du Puy, Phillip Cribb and Jean
The first edition could have sold out on the cover photo (Angraecum
sesquipedale) alone, and Johan’s photo of Grammangis ellisii on the cover of
this edition may well do the same. Immaculately researched, this book lists
the orchids of Madagascar in alphabetical order, giving the type publication,
the location of the type herbarium specimen and information about the plant in
Madagascar, listing (often with only one word) the distribution, habitat,
flowering time, life form (epiphyte or terrestrial), phytogeographical region,
bibliography of a description and illustration, and short notes. It is a dry,
shorthand account that summarises thousands of hours of work. The preface
has an interesting account of the botanist and collectors who have specialised
in Madagascar, notably Perrier and Schlecter, and several others who
seemed to have died rather abruptly, viz: ‘died two years later of malaria’,
‘died of typhoid age 28’, ‘died of a fever’, ‘three years later died of malaria’,
‘drowned when his pirogue was upset’ and even ‘killed by Nelson in a sea
battle’. We are fortunate to live, and to be able to stay alive, in less dangerous
The book contains the Latin descriptions of 42 of the orchids that had been
named, but not validly described by Perrier, so validating these names. This is
the first time that I have seen this done, and is an indication of the
thoroughness of this work. There is a list of synonyms, a huge bibliography
with its own index, and 64 pages of colour plates. The latter are all together
towards the end of the book, scanned mostly from Johan’s slides, and will be
extremely useful for both botanists in Madagascar and orchid growers around
the world, in identification of the many species of this and neighbouring
islands. There are also some awe-inspiring landscapes.
An indispensible reference book for botanists and specialists in the orchids of
this beautiful country.
Henry Oakeley