Poyser Natural History
350 pages, 6 col plates, 138 col photos, 10 b/w line
Marren is a lively and readable writer, no worse
for being unafraid to express his opinions, which are all the
more valuable for being personal. In this book he has produced
a survey of the 40% of our flora which is regarded as 'rare' or
He explains what and where our rare plants are
and why they clump together in certain parts of the country. He
recounts the discovery of the plants, and how they are still being
discovered, and how they come to be rare. He describes enthusiastic
and fanatical plant hunters and their exploits. He lists the rare
plants on the 'protected' list and the ones undergoing conservation
Reading Marren on 'The Lust for Rarities' is a
journey back into another world, where conservation was unheard-of.
It is a sad tale of fading ferns and obliterated orchids, of mis-education
and exploitation. He documents the decline and disappearance of
some plants, the doubtful status of others, and discusses what
they mean to us and what we can learn from the past. He shows
what can be done with very little money and a lot of dedication
to resurrect plant populations. It is an engaging and uplifting
story which will keep any reader fascinated for weeks.
"Peter Marren is a master story-teller" says Baroness
Young of Old Scone in her joint Foreword with Adrian Darby of
Plantlife, and it is true. The book is full of personalities:
G.C. Druce, "The epitome and champion of the 'twitchers'"; George
Don, who "astonished the Highlanders wherever he went by his strange
occupation of climbing rocks and hooking down plants, which they
regarded as weeds, with a fifteen-foot staff crowned by an iron
spaddle"; John Lightfoot, who braved "impassable torrents" and
"terrible claps" of thunder to find (perhaps) Blue Heath; Jocelyn
Brooke, who "worshipped wild orchids", and many more. There are
many entertaining and illuminating sidelights: what plant may
be found on the dunes at the top of the letter 'L' in 'EXPLOSIVES';
what to use cocktail sticks for in Teesdale; how many witches
a month were being burnt in Cornwall in the mid-seventeenth century;
where the 'No Parking Tree' is, and so on. Being from Poyser the
book is beautifully produced and illustrated, pleasantly heavy,
always a good sign. This is a book which many will buy for the
flowers but which many more would enjoy, just because it is a
damn good read.
Flora Anomala updated
Thomas Hopkirk and Martin Cragg-Barber
That Plant's Odd
50 pages, 13 black and white plates
£3.50 including postage,
from That Plant's Odd, 1, Station Cottages, Hullavington,
Chippenham, SN14 6ET
In 1817 Thomas Hopkirk published 'Flora Anomala',
a description of aberrations within our native flora - "the anomalies
which take place amongst vegetables", as he says. It was one of
the first books to assess abnormal developments amongst our plants,
and thus to establish the normal. Now Martin Cragg-Barber, an
enthusiastic 'teratologist', has published a shortened edition,
with his own comments and examples alongside, in a contrasting
It is a fascinating booklet. Hopkirk, a Scot from
near Glasgow, lists his variations under Anomalies of the Root,
Stem and Branches, Leaf, and Flower. He notes such unusual developments
as an oblong turnip, the different kinds of Holly leaf, a bluebell
with twenty stamens, and so on. Cragg-Barber inserts his own examples
from his own home county and those of friends.
288 pages, 200 col photos.
The book of the BBC TV Sunday series follows the
wildlife from January to New Year's Eve, tracking the way life
in Britain responds to the changing year. Each of the 12 chapters
concentrates on a specific location, and the life of plants, animals
and humans are explored.
Flora of the British Isles
Cambridge University Press
736 pages, plastic covers
The standard work for the flowers of Britain is
Stace's 'New Flora' but, with all its virtues, it is a little
heavy, in all ways. This is the 'Excursion Flora' version of 'Stace',
pocket-size, yet still with 736 pages and listing all the native
and alien species in the larger tome. The index has been slimmed-down,
and some hybrids omitted, but the full glossary remains and drawings
are cross referenced in the margins. It is sure to prove popular
with those wanting a substitute for 'Bentham & Hooker'.
The Sun Islands : A Natural History of the
Isles of Scilly
176 pages, 66 col photos.
The Isles of Scilly are a personal paradise, one
of those places which one hopes not-too-many know of since they
are so easily spoilt. However, the wise people who do visit Scilly
will appreciate information on the natural history of the fascinating
This book describes not only the unique plants,
butterflies and birds that can be found on Scilly and where and
when they can be found, but also the history of the islands through
the ages. Enhanced by many superb illustrations, bringing the
fascinating diversity of these islands to life.
The Flora of Norfolk
Gillian Beckett and Alec Bull
320 pages, illustrated
'Petch & Swann' has been the flora for Norfolk
since 1968, but it is now superseded by this major production.
Unlike the earlier flora, 'Beckett & Bull' is based on tetrad
(2 x2 km.) maps which have colour overlays for soil types, river
systems and so on. This clarifies the distribution of some plants,
such as the restriction of primrose to the clays in eastern Norfolk.
The prefatory sections on habitats, soils, past
botanists and nature conservation round off an impressive amateur
Wychwood: the evolution of a wooded landscape
Complements the story of the forest and its people
by following the history of the woodland and the region of West
Oxfordshire through to the landscape of the present day.
The Unofficial Countryside
Under the banner of progress, urban and suburban
development is fast wiping out our rural heritage. Yet Nature
is adapting to even the worst of Man's excesses, and in this brilliant
book Richard Mabey reveals the astonishing rich world of animal
and plant life surviving and often thriving among docklands, railways,
factories and canals. From orchids in abandoned cars to kestrels
over Kensington, this is Britain's `Unoffical Countryside.'
The Song of the Sandpiper: Memoir of a Scottish
J Morton Boyd
256 pages, 24 photos and illus.
The late John Morton Boyd was a pioneer of nature
conservation in Scotland, with a career spanning more than forty
years. His memoir has many voices: the romantic explorer and artist
in exotic places, the gifted scientist, and the ardent lover of
nature. A fascinating account by a man who flung himself at life,
and his interest in the harmonies of nature.