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Book Review

Tony King reviews "Palms & Cycads Beyond the Tropics" by Keith Boyer.
Tony King
Chamaerops No. 8, published online 23-10-2002

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It is with some relief that I am able to review this book, as for a time it looked as though nobody was prepared to take the plunge and publish it, the first publisher having pulled out. That would have been a great loss, for this long awaited volume fills a niche that has long existed in the palm enthusiast's library, and fills it very well.

It is softcover, 150 pages 24cm by 18cm, illustrated mainly with colour photographs of the plants both in habitat and in cultivation. Many of these photographs are excellent. Subtitled, "A Guide to Growing Cold Hardy Species" the various chapters cover the introduction and cultivation of palms and cycads, pests and diseases, climates beyond (i.e. outside) the tropics, hardiness to cold, landscaping uses, conservation, and, of course, the species themselves, to which the bulk of the book is devoted.

In addition, appendices cover the classification and cold tolerance of palms, based on practical recorded information gathered from around the world, together with a chart on which one can see at a glance those species most suited to a particular area or climate.

The text is easy, indeed entertaining, to read, and not bogged down with technical jargon. It is packed with useful information, and the fact that Dr John Dransfield of Kew ran his experienced eye over the manuscript is a recommendation in itself.

The largest chapter gives details of cold hardy/cool growing palm and cycad species arranged in alphabetical order of genera from Acoelorraphe to Zamia. Each genus is given a general introduction followed by descriptions of the individual species within that genus, ending with cultivation/seed germination tips along with an indication of the minimum temperatures the species have been recorded as withstanding.

The coverage at both genus and species level is surprisingly broad. To give an example, my favourite cycad genus, Dioon, merits information on no less than 9 species! It seems that nothing is left out, and there are no disappointing omissions.

A couple of typographical errors have crept us: the 'contents' mentions pages 151 & 152 which don't in fact exist, and the TZC is referred to in the appendix covering palm & cycad societies. Many readers will know that this no longer exists, and indeed its demise was a catalyst in the formation of the EPS (which gets a prominent mention!) two years ago. But these are significant points, compared to the wealth of information within the book's covers.

I must confess that prior to publication, I wondered if the book would live up to the high expectations I had of it. I'm very glad to report that it exceeds them, and I would without any hesitation recommend it to anyone interested in growing palms and cycads in a temperate climate. Indeed, if you haven't decided what to buy yourself for Christmas, look no further as this would surely make the ideal present.

If you have difficulty obtaining a copy, "Palms & Cycads Beyond the Tropics" is available from the Palm Centre, price £14.50 plus 50p post & packing (£1 rest of Europe).

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