A Cactus Odyssey
Journeys in the Wilds of Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina
By James D.Mauseth, Roberto Kiesling, Carlos Ostolaza

(ISBN 0-88192-526-8)

230 x 155mm, 320pp, 191 colour photographs.


A Cactus Odyssey

A Cactus Odyssey

This is a most unusual book and I don't know of anything previously published which is really comparable. The publishers 'blurb' describes it as a travelogue, which indeed it is, but it is also considerably more than that. I suppose if some of the South American botanical explorers of the 19th century were published in modern format with colour photographs you might get a similar result.

The book is immensely readable and I found it difficult to put down, reading it from cover to cover. Perhaps this would not be so surpring for a travelogue but the text digreses at periodic intervals into quite technical botanic theory. It is a tribute to the authors that they have managed to present such sections in an understandable form for a non-botanist such as myself and also included so much fascinating information of which I was not aware. It perhaps helped that I grow a fair number of the odd-ball south American cacti which the authors were so delighted to find in their travels. I could never have imagined that the find of Samaipaticereus corroanus could have been greeted with such enthusiasm.

The origins of the book were in the 1986 IOS meeting in Salta where the authors met and over subsequent years have made about eight botanical trips together in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The authors are all interested in various aspects of the history and biology of cacti and the first chapter is a general introduction to these topics which set the scene for the later chapters. The subsequent chapters are as follows:

This will obviously be a book which should be read by anyone who may have the chance of visiting cactus habitats in South America. Even if this is not the case I would suggest you try and get hold of a copy to read it. It is perhaps an emminently suitable book for inclusion in a club or branch library, not duplicating anything else you have and also reasonably priced.

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