A gardener from the age of three, his scientific interest in tropical plants was inspired by reading the work of the controversial botanist E. Corner as an undergraduate at Oxford. After graduating he lived in Papua New Guinea for several years before returning to Oxford and completing a doctoral thesis about tropical aroids, on which he has since published many papers. He has a large and not in the least botanical garden on the New South Wales South Coast, and a property in southern Colombia dedicated to the cultivation of rare indigenous Andean plants.
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I searched for ages for the single right adjective to describe this book — an almost impossible task, it is so lovely. Sumptuous about does it … this book is a tour de force — chock full of information, beautifully illustrated, meticulously referenced. Huanduj is a monograph in the true sense; a compendium of all known information about a group of organisms. The title may seem a bit obscure to the average reader and might not attract the general buyer of botanical books, but to me it is the icing on the cake.
Brugmansias are the wonderful, tropical-looking shrubs and small trees cultivated in the tropics and subtropics year-round, and as summer pot plants in the north temperate zone although, with the changing climate, mine has lived through the winter for several years in a row in London! They are yet another member of that oh-so-useful plant family the Solanaceae which also comprises potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and ground cherries.
The family is odd in that it has members that are agriculturally important crops, but is also replete with plants used as drugs like tobacco and mandrake.
Of these latter, the brugmansias are the absolute pinnacle. Their combined expertise in these plants is unparalleled and makes for a book that botanists should read to understand horticulture, and vice versa. Nowhere is taxonomy more fraught with difficulties than in cultivated plants. Quandaries about how to treat plants known only from cultivation abound — should they be treated as subspecies of their wild progenitors?
As distinct species with Latin names? As cultivars? And their taxonomic history is awash with names given to plants cultivated in botanical gardens and thought to be wild species — no wonder taxonomists avoid these groups and focus on new or rare and endangered species.
They freely admit that these commonly cultivated hybrids are sometimes impossible to distinguish from their parents. The section on botany treats not only the taxonomy of the genus in all its nomenclatural gory detail but also natural history and ethnobotany.
The authors have included in these sections a wealth of information, some of it well-supported and some anecdotal from single literature references.
Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask, is here — it is marvellous! Brugmansias are extremely important shamanistic plants in South America, dangerous and highly feared and respected. This was a new term to me, but I am a convert.
Writing about magical plants is always difficult and the authors have very skilfully navigated the territory between fascination and fear. Horticultural varieties of brugmansias are many and various, and here is where the sumptuousness comes in.
The sheer number of these makes me slightly despair of ever being able to distinguish anything, but the book actually provides the means to manage it in the end. The register of cultivar names will be immensely useful for gardeners and those wanting to put names to these most fascinating and attractive plants.
The horticultural half of the book is also practical — in addition to detailed advice on cultivation, grafting and propagation, the authors have included a section on pests and diseases, which will be useful far beyond those interested in growing brugmansias. This information I am sure will be of interest to scientists researching new diseases in agriculture as well.
Huanduj is a book that defies categorisation, it can be read from end to end, or dipped into at leisure, or one can just look at the pictures for fun! It should be on the bookshelves of anyone interested in plants, whether a botanist, a horticulturalist or just a lover of nature.
Barclay R. Andes - Colombia to Ecuador These species are then divided into two natural, genetically isolated groups. Brugmansia section Sphaerocarpium the cold group includes the species arborea, sanguinea, and vulcanicola. Schultes in This was later disproved by crossbreeding experiments done by the Preissels, published in
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