Pachypodium & Adenium
The Cactus File Handbook 5
by Gordon Rowley
Hardbound, 80 pages, ISBN 0 9528302 7 2, ISSN 1363-5727
185 x 260mm, Colour throughout, including 109 colour photographs, 39 distribution maps.

This volume in the Cactus File series brings a number of innovations which, while breaking the style of the series, are nevertheless welcome improvements. The book format is larger allowing the inclusion of larger illustrations and diagrams and greater freedom in layout. The binding seems more substantial and is supplied with a paper dust cover with the title on the spine. One thing which I wish the publishers would change is the yellow text for some of the chapter headings which I find very hard to read, but that is a relatively minor quibble in what is otherwise a very well designed and produced book.

The book is based on an earlier publication (1983) of the BCSS, 'The Adenium and Pachypodium Handbook', which has now been out of print some years. Whilst the text of this was good it suffered from being in a small format and only having rather poor contrast black and white illustrations (possibly due to conversion from colour slides which tends not to produce good results). Thus the addition of 109 high-quality colour photographs is a very significant improvement over the earlier booklet. The stunning picture on the front cover is definitely the best of the series to date.

'Pachypodium and Adenium' is the first of the Cactus File Handbooks to come from the pen of a professional botanist rather than an amateur (albeit highly knowledgable) hobbyist/grower and this produces a noticeable difference in emphasis, in that this volume is more nearly a monograph of the succulent Apocynaceae than the previous handbooks, which were nearer a horticultural appreciation of their respective genera. Volume 3 on Adromischus is perhaps somewhat intermediate in this respect.

The genus Adenium has become extremely fashionable in the last few years with many very showy hybrids being produced and being widely cultivated in tropical countries where the plants thrive. While two pages are devoted to these I know some people would have liked to see a lot more, but there is a limit to how many illustrations and pages can be added to such a book without correspondingly increasing the costs with inevitable problems of putting the price out of too many people's reach and endangering the economic viability of the publication.

The book has 49 pages on Pachypodium and 13 Adenium reflecting the greater diversity and number of species in the genus Pachypodium. I am not qualified to comment on Gordon's view that Adenium consists of one highly variable species with a number of sub-species rather than a number of seperate species which I know some people don't like, but I can see that the range of characters is greater in Pachypodium than Adenium.

This is a very nice addition to your library and I would say essential if you are interested in this group of plants and don't have the earlier BCSS edition.

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