Aroids

Aroids

by Deni Bown
     
 

Originally published in 1988 as the first truly comprehensive review of one of the largest and most popular plant families, Aroids was enthusiastically welcomed by botanists and horticulturists alike for its attention to scientific detail and delightful writing style.

Now in this completely updated second edition, we learn of discoveries made in the last

Overview


Originally published in 1988 as the first truly comprehensive review of one of the largest and most popular plant families, Aroids was enthusiastically welcomed by botanists and horticulturists alike for its attention to scientific detail and delightful writing style.

Now in this completely updated second edition, we learn of discoveries made in the last decade as the family has grown from about 2500 species to nearer 3200. The latest taxonomic and nomenclatural revisions are noted in the checklist of genera, and all the original drawings are included plus twice as many color photos. A new guide to the cultivation of ornamental aroids completes this well-rounded introduction to a remarkable family.

Editorial Reviews

Gardens Illustrated - Fergus Garrett
"A tantalizing and wide ranging read on the natural history of aroids ... Evocative, stimulating and accessible even on the most scientific aspects of her work. Captures the essence of this extraordinarily weird and wonderful family in a mouth-watering way."—Fergus Garrett, Gardens Illustrated, October 2001
Choice
"It makes for some fascinating reading."—Choice, January 2001
Ornamental Outlook - Stephen Pategas
"A scholarly review of this amazing family ... Puts into context the origins and habits of aroids and their cultivation."—Stephen Pategas, Ornamental Outlook, April 2005
Booknews
Updating the 1988 edition to include taxonomic changes, a botanical- horticultural writer and photographer who gardens in England further extols the arum family in all its diversity: from the well-known dieffenbachia, philodendrons, and skunk cabbage to the exotic towering . Includes 73 color plates, many line drawings, a checklist of aroid genera, and a glossary of terms with sketches. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781604692013
Publisher:
Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/02/2010
Pages:
470
Product dimensions:
0.95(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


A very odd little aroid, Arisarum proboscideum, has an appendix that mimics the appearance of a fungus. While several arisaemas are pollinated by fungus gnats and invite their visitors by giving out mushroomy smells, none are known to go to this extreme. Commonly known as the mouse plant, A. proboscideum is popular in cultivation for its spathes, which have brown tails about 7 in. long that protrude above the dense mass of glossy sagitate leaves, looking as if a family of mice has just dived for cover. The species is found wild in woods in Italy and Spain, but not in Albania as stated in Cecil Prime's Lords and Ladies. The confusion probably arose from a collection in the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; made in 1867 and labelled In montibus Albanis, the specimen came from the Alban hills southeast of Rome.

The inflorescences are on pale stalks about 6 in. tall and are held slightly inclined towards the ground. The lower portion of the spathe forms a tube 2-3 in. long with a slightly velvety brown hood and a white base. The only opening is a small hole beneath the point where the hood marrows into the elongated curve of the tail. To appreciate this inflorescence fully, it is necessary to cut away one side. Inside is the crooked spadix with a few female flowers at the base and a larger number of male flowers above. Then, fitting exactly into the hood of the spathe, is the whites spongy appendix, a perfect replica of the underside of a fungus. Its faint mushroomy scent attracts female fungus gnats. Once inside the inflorescence the insects are stimulated to lay their eggs by the appearance and humidity of the imitation fungus. The eggs are deposited in the cavities of the spongy tissies, and the larvae subsequently hatch, only to starve on the fake food. After egg-laying, the gnats enter the spathe chamber by either falling into it or being guided downwards by the bright refractive base. As they struggle to escape they drop any pollen they may be carrying from a previously visited inflorescence and pick up a new load before they leave.

The flowering of this cunning little aroid is timed to coincide with the first springtime generation of gnats. The insects are compelled to breed when few real fungi can be found, so that their desperate search for somewhere to lay their eggs they are readily taken in by this aroid's enticing guise. Such behaviour has earned the inflorescences the description of "parasites on the ecosystem" (Vogel 1973). This strange case of mimicry was first described in 1891 by an Italian botanist who referred to Arisum proboscideum as "the most peculiar herb in Europe" (Arcangeli 1891).

Meet the Author


For the first edition of Aroids, Deni undertook a solo round-the-world aroid hunting trip, venturing into the rainforests of Sumatra looking for the spectacular Amorphophallus titanum. She has photographed botanic gardens in Europe, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, and Australia, and is also a regular researcher and photographer at both Kew and Edinburgh. Deni is married with 5 children, and is currently at work on developing a 6-acre garden devoted mainly to culinary, medicinal, and aromatic plants, which of course includes some aroids.

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