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Book Review - The Biology of Vascular Plants, by C.D. Sculthorpe

O.K, I admit it, I'm a bookworm - I find it hard to resist a new (or an old)
book. And when the subject of the book is aquatic plants, I am especially
interested. For years I had been hearing about a book on aquatic plants
which was considered a classic. Titled "The Biology of Aquatic Vascular
Plants"  authored by C.D. Sculthorpe, and written waaaaay back in 1967
(think bell-bottom trousers and love beads), this book was supposed to be so
well done that it was STILL worth a "read", when (and if) you could get your
hands on a copy.

Several months ago, I discovered that the book's publisher, Koeltz
Scientific Books in West Germany had uncovered a quantity of unbound
manuscripts from the 1985 printing sitting in a warehouse. They decided to
slap some covers on the books and offer them for sale. I received my copy
last month and it cost me $66.00 US plus shipping.

(http://www.koeltz.com/ - they accept credit card orders via the internet
and as I have since received several books from them can honestly describe
them as a real pleasure to deal with)

What can a 35 year old book have to teach an aquatic plant enthusiast in the
21st Century? Quite a bit, actually. This is solid stuff, and Sculthorpe was
a good enough author that even the heaviest material is easy to read and
understand. It is fully referenced throughout to scientific studies and
prior works and covers pretty much everything there was to know about
aquatic plants at the time it was written (and that same material is STILL
worth knowing).

Here is a listing of the various chapter headings:

1. The Salient Features of Aquatic Vascular Plants
2. The Salient Features of the Aquatic Environment
3. A Link with Land Plants: The Structure and Physiology of Emergent Foliage
4. Life in Two Environments: The Structure and Physiology of Floating Leaves
5. Life in the Water: The Structure and Physiology of Submerged Organs
6. Life in the Substrate: The Structure and Physiology of Underground Organs
7. The Free Floating Habit
8. Vegetative Polymorphism and the Problem of Heterophylly
9. Sexual Reproduction and Natural Affinities
 - Initiation of reproductive growth
 - Certain aspects of the reproduction of aquatic pteridophytes (ferns)
 - Floral morphology and pollination in aquatic angiosperms
 - Post-fertilization development in aquatic angiosperms
10. Vegetative reproduction and Perennation
11. Some Aspects of the Geography of Aquatic Vascular Plants
12. The Growth of Hydrophyte Communities and their Interaction with the
Aquatic Environment
13. The Problem of Aquatic Weeds
14. The Control of Aquatic Weeds
15. The Aesthetic and Economic Value of Aquatic Vascular Plants (yes, he
DOES discuss aquariums and water gardens!)

There is a FULL Bibliography and list of referenced authors, as well as an
excellent Index. The taxonomic classification scheme used in the book is
surprisingly "modern" in that it is still quite current - and where changes
have occurred it is easy to find references to the older names using a good
search engine. The book is copiously illustrated throughout, with both line
drawings and black and white photographs (but you wouldn't buy it for
"pretty pictures", its NOT that kind of book). Perfect binding, 6" x 8 3/4"
x 1 1/4" and containing 610 pages.

It might not help you overcome your battles with algae, but buying and
reading this book would definitely make you more knowledgeable about aquatic
plants and how they grow. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give this a 9.0.

James Purchase