Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Field Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa by Estrela Figueiredo, Gideon Smith & Neil Crouch

Anyone who knows me well will be aware of one of my favourite hobbies – collecting succulent plants. The bug first bit me when my mom and dad took me to some big flower show held in Cape Town during the 1980s, and the bought me an argyroderma that I, predictably, murdered by the time the first winter came round. Later lithops species I owned didn't fare much better, however my aloes are my pride and joy, and I now have several species flourishing in my garden. So to say I love the succulent flora of southern Africa is a wee bit of an understatement.

It goes without saying that I collect books on succulent flora too, however I do admit to having been a bit more restrained about this habit since our house isn't getting any bigger and we've officially run out of shelf space ... well, okay, I lie, if there's a book I really want, I make a plan.

Of course when the new Field Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa by Estrela Figueriedo, Gideon Smith and Neil Crouch came out this year, I was all about the grabby fingers. Field guides are *incredibly* useful, and one that is as comprehensive as this rather hefty little volume, makes it a must-have on any serious plant collector's shelf. Of course the thing is, as with most field guides, there's limited space for how much information can be packed in for all the species, but I was suitably impressed by the comprehensive nature of this particular title.

The introductory sections do the job of highlighting the incredible diversity and vulnerability of succulent flora in this region, and is then divided into the various species. I've always considered myself to be reasonably well educated about succulent flora, especially in South Africa, but even I learnt a few new facts. (Also, I had the horrors of realising that the Latin names have changed for the aloes, which means I now have new names to memorise.)

However, what this book has done is remind me that there are still many species I'd really love to collect, especially the carrion flowers, assorted mesembs and, yes, even more aloes. And I could do with a few more euphorbias while I'm at it...

What's great about this book is it's just the right size to take out with you in the veld, because yes, the husband and I are the types of people who'll go for a walk in the Karoo then not get very far as we start crouching about likely spots to see which succulent species we can discover. (I'm sure passers-by must wonder what on earth is going on.)

The downside with the ease of use for this book is that it packs in a *huge* amount of information in a small space – pictures might be on the small side, and facts offered are just enough to give you a jump start for further research. And maybe that's exactly what makes this little book such a treasure. This field guide has a permanent place on my bookshelves, and I'd early love, love, love to see the publisher to bring out bigger, coffee table books that focus on the different families. The carrion flowers on their own already deserve special treatment...

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