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Aquatic Plant Book by Christopher D.K. Cook

Several weeks ago, I asked if anyone was familiar with the book "Aquatic
Plant Book" by Christopher D.K. Cook. I first became aware of this volume
via the Tropica web site - they cite it as a reference for world wide
aquatics. Based upon e-mail comments from both Claus Christensen (Tropica)
and Bruce Hansen from Australia, I decided to try and get a copy for myself.

The book was published in 1996 by SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam/New
York and is distributed by Backhuys Publishers
(http://www.euronet.nl/users/backhuys/). They list in their "Botany" section
and describe it as follows:

"Aquatic plant book"
Cook, C.D.K.
1996, 2nd. rev. ed., 228pp., 408 figs, hardbound
ISBN 90-5103-132-7 NLG 110.00/US$ 55.00

A few e-mails confirmed the fact that they would accept a credit card order,
so I placed an order for a copy on Oct. 23rd. It arrived (very well
packaged) in the mail yesterday (Nov. 24th). While I have not yet seem my
latest Mastercard statement, and can't say how much it cost me in Canadian
Dollars, the included invoice shows the cost of the book itself as 110,00
HFL and I was billed a further 32,00 for shipping, for a total of 142,00 HFL
(64,44 Euros).

Interesting volume........for anyone interested in the more
technical/scientific aspects of aquatic plants. It doesn't cover details of
cultivation nor is there much information at the species level, so if you
don't already know these things or have other reference sources which do
contain them, you might be disappointed. But if you want a solid overview of
the full range of plants which grow on or in water, this book is a definate

Physically, it is a medium sized volume, measuring 8.5" x 11.75", with a
sewn binding and a hard, water resistant cover. The book contains 228 pages.
This is something you could feel comfortable throwing into a knapsack to
take along on a walk to a local wetland. There are no pretty photographs,
but the book is packed with excellent illustrations with which to help
identify the various genera covered. These illustrations are all black and
white line drawings, and while they don't approach the artistic level of the
illustrations in (for example) the original Tropica Catalogue, they are
clean, clear and should be very helpful in the field.

The book covers an astounding 407 genera from 87 different families of
vascular plants - mosses and other non-vascular plants are not covered. The
scope of the book is worldwide and Cook attempts to include ALL aquatics -
those plants which grow permanently on or in water or are subject to being
submerged for several months each year. Many of the plants listed are
therefore not obligatory submerged during the entire year.

In the introductory material Cook describes the taxonomic background used
for the book (he follows Dahlgren, 1980). While more recent studies have
resulted in some changes to this classification system, and there are
alternative treatments from other authors, there are excellent resources
available online to help bridge any gaps and bring the classification up to
date (its apparently a moving field, and difficult to pin down in a book and
have it remain accurate for any length of time). [One of the best of these
online resources is probably The Flowering Plant Gateway at

Cook presents a nine page key to the major groups of families, but anyone
familiar with Dahlgren's Classification of the Angiosperms would probably
not need to reference this section too often.

Moving to the "meat" of the book, Cook begins with the Pteridophytina (Ferns
and Allies) and covers all the "usual suspects", and also includes at least
one which is not currently, to my knowledge, available commercially but
might be interesting (Blechnum - a genus of 220 species with one aquatic
species B. francii from New Caledonia). He then follows through the various
families of flowering plants, beginning with Acanthaceae and ending with
Zosteraceae. Along the way, you learn which genera are contained in each
plant family and get some idea of the incredible diversity of what might be
found if you look closely enough. One thing that I find valuable is the
listing of synonyms for most of the genera described. Earlier in the month,
here on the APD, there were a number of posts regarding Eusteralis. Cook
(and most other botanical references I have consulted) lists this as being a
synonym of Pogostemon.

Descriptions of the genera are brief but complete and you might require
access to a botanical reference to "translate" some of the terms into common
English. For example, under the genus Acorus, Cook's description reads as

Acorus: 2 or perhaps more species: N. America and Asia, introduced in Europe
and S. America. Fig. 45.
Rhizomes thick, creeping. Leaves equitant, unifacial, aromatic. Spadix
appears to be borne laterally on a foliage leaf; spathe absent (the
prolongation of the fertile axix is sometimes interpreted as the spathe).
Flowers bisexual, 3-merous, greenish. Perianth of 6 segments (2 whorls of
3). Stamens 6; filaments linear. Ovary 2- or 3- locular; ovules numerous;
betty gelatinous, few-seeded.
Reed-like, emergent or temporarily terresterial; entomophilous; diaspores
gelatinous, few-seeded berries, presumably dispersed by animals and perhaps
also by water; sterile triploids widespread, dispersed by rhizome fragments;
used in the medicine of many cultures, oil used as insecticide and perfume:
Rost, Biosystematic investigations with Acorus, 4. A synthetic approach to
the classification of the genus. Planta Medica 37:289-307(1979); Grayum, A
summary of the evidence and arguments supporting the removal of Acorus from
the Araceae. Taxon 36:723-729(1987).

As you can see, he packs a lot of information into the description, and
there are literature references cited for further investigation should the
reader wish to learn more. But no attempt is made to describe details at the
species level - you would need another book for this. Also missing, from an
aquarist's perspective, are cultivation details, although inferences can be
made from the way the plant grows in nature, if you know the basics. Many of
the genera covered are not really suitable for aquarium cultivation - but
pretty much every genus which is of interest to aquarists is included.

James Purchase