EC -- Biological Sciences

Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Pflanzennamen: die Herkunft der wissenschaftlichen, deutschen, englischen und französischen Namen [Etymological Dictionary of Plant Names: The Origin of the Scientific, German, English, and French Names]. Friedhelm Sauerhoff. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 2003. xx, 779 p. 22 cm. ISBN 3-8047-1899-X: EUR 98 [04-1-379]

The author explores 2,300 German plant names on the basis of various etymological and botanical lexicons, as well as popular literature. The plant names are organized by their Latin names, followed by quotes from various sources, then by their names in English, French, and, where possible, in other languages. There are various keys for abbreviations of works, general terms, and English terms, among others. The work also includes an eight-page general bibliography and an extremely useful index of German plant names, which offers the layreader access to the material.

Of note is the meticulousness with which the author presents the etymologies. Academic readers will be frustrated by the laxness and imprecision of the citations. For example, certain cited works are not present in the bibliography, while others are incorrectly or incompletely cited (missing edition information, incorrect titles, etc.). This otherwise well-conceived volume could use a careful revision. [jr/dsa]

Das neue Handbuch der Heilpflanzen [The New Handbook of Medicinal Plants]. Ingrid and Peter Schönfelder. Stuttgart: Kosmos-Verlag; Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 2004. 502 p. ill. 28 cm. ISBN 3-440-09387-5 (Kosmos); 3-8047-2134-6 (Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft): EUR 49.90 [04-2-594]

The authors, whose guides on the subject have appeared in numerous editions over the last 20 years, present here over 750 of the most important plants for phytotherapy and homeopathy from all over the world. Each entry features a description consisting of sections on botany, location and distribution, drug products, active substance(s), and use, as well as at least one photograph or drawing. Sidebars provide notes on size, flowering period, habitats, tea preparation, and other topics, as well as indications of poisonous or endangered status. The entries are arranged by standard scientific name, but also provide standard and alternate German names, as well as family names.

A series of brief introductory notes on such relevant topics as geographical origins, medicinal plant substances, gathering and cultivation, preparation, phytotherapy, and homeopathy provide excellent background for use of this resource. The bibliography, which includes journals and web sites as well as books and articles, is concise (two pages) and well documented. Overall this is a reference work outstanding in its scholarship, its richness of information, its ease of use, and the clarity and attractiveness of its presentation. [jr/gw]

Enzyklopädie der essbaren Wildpflanzen: 1500 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas mit 400 Farbfotos [Encyclopedia of Edible Wild Plants: 1,500 Central European Plants with 400 Color Photographs]. Steffen Guido Fleischhauer. 2d ed. Aarau; München: AT-Verlag, 2004. 411 p. ill. 27 cm. ISBN 3-85502-889-3: EUR 48 [04-2-595]

This is the most comprehensive work on edible wild plants available. Unfortunately, it suffers from several deficiencies which limit its usefulness. For instance, a decision not to present the botanically distinctive features of individual plants forces the amateur gatherer to look elsewhere for help with identification.

There are also a number of editorial lapses. Four tables in the introduction tout the superior nutritional value of wild plants over cultivated ones, but without direct plant-to-plant comparison or allowances for seasonal variation and the impact of pollution. Another table (of poisonous plants) lists angel’s trumpet, a cultivar from South America, as an indigenous wild plant. Ratings of plant toxicity are not always reliable. Endangered plant species are not so designated, but plant families that include several endangered species are tagged with a blanket warning of restrictions. The bibliography includes unverifiable citations, citations with missing data, and non-working URLs.

Entries are by Latin name; some cover an entire genus, others individual species, still others a group defined in some unnamed alternate classification. Data on affiliation with a plant family are not given. Brief information about flowering periods, use for human consumption, and primary locations is presented. Other features include topical chapters on the processing of wild plants, basic recipes, and the development of a wild-plant garden. There is a directory of contacts for further information, and indexes of recipes and German plant names. With 1,500 plants represented and 400 color photographs, this work undeniably has much to offer, despite its shortcomings, and will be a key resource on a topic of growing interest. [jr/gw]

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Last update: July 17, 2007 [TB]
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