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Wild Flowers of Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza

With Keys to the Flora of the Balearic Islands

Elspeth Beckett

 

hardcover

9.8×6.8in • 250×175m

160 pages

index included

ISBNs: 9061916348 • 9789061916345

A.A. Balkema • 1987



The Balearic Islands, an extremely popular destination with over four million visitors per annum, have not until now had any comprehensive identification guide to their Flora.  There are good Floras, including an excellent modern one in three volumes by Bonafe (1977-1980).  However, this is very expensive, large and written in Catalan, the language of the islands.  Holidaymakers with strong arms could of course take the five large volumes of Flora Europaea (Tutin et al., 1964-1980).  The only recent checklist by Duvigneaud (1979) is published as a supplement to a rather obscure journal and sadly not generally available.  Other botanists have detailed supplementary lists, but these have not been published.  Elspeth Beckett's work is therefore greatly welcomed, particularly by enthusiastic novices who will find much to help and encourage them.

The work is based on the five volumes of Flora Europaea, which is duly acknowledged.  It is basically a series of keys with helpful annotations and common names (English, Catalan, Castilian, German and French).  However, there are eight plates of Elspeth Beckett's delightful paintings in colour, two figures (spread over five pages) of line drawings explaining terminology and a six-page glossary illustrated with useful sketches.

The colour plates deserve special mention for they contain no less than 368 species!  They can therefore only illustrate scraps: single flowers (e.g. most of the orchids in Plate 5), capitula (Plate 4), fruits and seeds (Plate 7) or an overall impression of habit (e.g. Agave americana Plate 8, no. 19).  They have not surprisingly been criticized as being somewhat useless because of their scrappiness and because only 368 taxa have been illustrated.  However, I have found them useful: in several instances they have confirmed that I was right with my identification and in others, put me back on the rails on another track.  The eight plates give the user as much help as their size allows, and as the publisher would not apparently accept any more, we cannot blame the author!  (The price is a little on the high side for such a book: more colour would have presumably made the work completely unviable.)  At first, I thought the colours brash.  But, a good many Mediterranean species do have harsh loud flower colours, and any collection thrown together on one plate must give this result.

However, the author has almost completed another project painting the whole flora of Mallorca, in the manner of Keble Martin (1965).  I have been treated to a glimpse of these original paintings in the Reading University herbarium on a recent visit by Dr Beckett and can report that they are absolutely outstanding.  I look forward eagerly to their publication, only hoping the publisher can do them justice!


Elspeth Beckett is a self-taught botanist and artist.  She was a general medical practitioner who confessed that when the patients were getting her down, she took herself off to Mallorca with a paintbox, forgetting all the stresses of her practice.  It is clear that doctors would achieve better results for patient health by writing out airline tickets for Balearic Island package holidays and suggesting the purchase of this book (or a paint box) than by prescribing drugs-at least for harassed editors and herbarium curators!

S.  L.  Jury
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society (1990), 102: 197-204


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