EC -- Biological Science

Was blüht denn da?: der Klassiker; 748 wildwachsende Blütenpflanzen Mitteleuropas nach Farbe bestimmen [What’s Blooming Here?: The Classic; 748 Wild Flowering Plants of Central Europe by Color]. Dietmar Aichele and Marianne Golte-Bechtle. 57th unchanged ed. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2005. 447 p. ill. 20 cm. (Kosmos-Naturführer). ISBN 3-440-10212-2: EUR 17.95 [05-1-252]

Was blüht denn da?: der Fotoband [What’s Blooming Here?: The Photo Volume]. Dietmar Aichele. 5th ed. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2004. 466 p. ill. 18 cm. (Kosmos-Naturführer). ISBN 3-440-10281-5: EUR 14.95 [05-1-253]

Der BLV-Pflanzenführer für unterwegs: mit zuverlässigem Farbcode; 1150 Blumen, Gräser, Bäume und Sträucher [The Portable BLV Plant Guide: Reliably Color-Coded; 1,150 Flowers, Grasses, Trees, and Shrubs]. Thomas Schauer and Claus Caspari. Munich: BLV-Buchverlag, 2005. 494 p. ill. 20 cm. ISBN 3-405-16908-9: EUR 15.95 [05-1-254]

Was blüht denn da?: die Enzyklopädie; über 1000 Blütenpflanzen Mitteleuropas [What’s Blooming Here?: The Encyclopedia; Over 1,000 Flowering Plants of Central Europe]. Margot Spohn, Marianne Golte-Bechtle, and Roland Spohn. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2005. 399 p. ill. 28 cm. ISBN 978-3-440-10326-5, ISBN 3-440-10326-9: EUR 49.90 [05-1-255]

The most obvious characteristic of a flowering plant is its color. On this principle the medical student Alois Kosch created a field guide for the non-botanist to some 500 important flowering plants in 1935. This classic work, republished in 2005 with the self-conscious subtitle Der Klassiker, has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into seven languages. Since the first edition, the number of plants covered has grown to 748 species, even though the scope of the work now excludes sedges, grasses, reeds, and conifers. Marianne Golte-Bechtle’s excellent and precise color illustrations make the book attractive to beginning botany students as well as lay audiences. The introduction illustrates the basics of plant anatomy and habitat, while cover flaps contain drawings of 52 berries with page references to the associated plants.

Entries (four of them per page) include the common German name, the scientific name (species and family), a short description of plant and habitat (supported with range maps and notes on elevation, flowering times, and growth patterns), and illustrations. Where applicable there are references to poisonous quality or endangered status, and the occasional "special note" on the plant’s name or some other interesting botanical or cultural characteristic. Bibliography and index are included.

Was blüht denn da?: der Fotoband is a version of the standard work with only 400 species, with a photo of one species per page. Entries also include a small habitat drawing and descriptive text that is mostly reproduced from the standard. A quick visual index to berries is also present, along with pictures of poisonous plants organized by color. There is no bibliography, but there is an extensive index. It is amazing that many non-botanists prefer photos to drawings, since only an exact drawing can outline the distinguishing characteristics with any precision.

The direct rival of the classic Kosmos work is, according to its back cover, the "most complete popular plant field guide organized by color," Der BLV-Pflanzenführer für unterwegs. As usual, there is an introductory portion covering important vocabulary, though awkwardly—some characteristics belonging together, like the bud structures and the leaf shapes, are found both here and on the back cover flap. A very brief section on habitats and endangered species follows, and then come the entries for 1,150 plants, including numerous grasses, trees and reeds. Also the number of Alpine flowers covered is larger than in the Kosmos volume. The BLV guide shows nearly 54 percent more plants than the Kosmos guide, even with only 14 percent more pages and nearly the same external format. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of the descriptions and the size of the pictures. Entries include pictograms of blooming times, size and location of plants, and key identifying characteristics. There is no way to identify plants by berry or fruit. There are separate indexes for German and Latin names but no bibliography.

Which field guide is more accurate? Both suffice for the non-botanist, and each have strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, a decision comes down to personal taste. With the trickier plant families, neither book can guarantee an absolutely accurate identification without the use of tweezers and a magnifying glass to find the identifying characteristics. Natural variation in plants can confuse the non-botanist when nature does not match the drawing, yet photos help not a bit with the finer points of identification.

Was blüht denn da?: die Enzyklopädie is an expanded edition of the original that includes over 1,000 flowering plants, including trees and bushes. But it is not as comprehensive as its subtitle suggests, since it includes fewer species than the BLV. Along with the usual introductory material there are short essays on poisonous, useful, and protected species and a systematic outline of plant genera. This edition is enriched with Roland Spohn’s beautiful detail drawings of fruits, blossoms, and roots. However, there are several places where key information is surprisingly not carried over from the Klassiker, like information on the poisonous protoanemonin in Clematis vitalba. Since the size of this work precludes its use in the field, one wonders why it is still organized by color instead of by family. This makes for an attractive coffee-table book, but the five-volume Blütenpflanzen Mitteleuropas (Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos) does a better job as an encyclopedic work. [jr/rb]

Das grosse Lexikon der Aquaristik [The Big Dictionary of Fishkeeping]. Detlev Bork. 2 vols. Stuttgart (Hohenheim): Ulmer, 2004. 1,002 p. ill. 28 cm. (DATZ-Aquarienbücher). ISBN 3-8001-7497-9: EUR 149 [05-1-256]

Fishkeeping is not only a well-loved hobby but also makes up a significant part of the pet industry, despite the fact that the industry cannot provide exact figures for the number of aquariums in households or fish as pets. Although many informative books on specific aspects of fish rearing have been published, comprehensive reference works in German are rare, and those that have been published are already outdated: Günther Sterba’s Enzyklopädie der Aquaristik und speziellen Ichthyologie (Melsungen: Neumann-Neudamm, 1978); and Hans Frey’s Das grosse Lexikon der Aquaristik: Süsswasser und Meerwasser [The Big Dictionary of Fishkeeping: Fresh Water and Salt Water] 3rd ed. (Melsungen: Neumann-Neudamm, 1983). Ulmer’s 2004 two-volume dictionary fills this gap with 21 specialists covering all areas of fishkeeping, with a total of about 6,800 entries. Despite the general title, the dictionary only deals with fresh-water species. More than 2,800 of the most significant species in fresh-water fish rearing are included with their scientific and German names, physical description, habitat, care, and breeding in aquariums with details about temperature, pH value, water hardness, and aquarium size. Besides the more than 1,000 color photos and drawings included, the dictionary provides information on about 460 aquatic plants, setting up an aquarium, techniques, diseases, and treatments. The bibliography extensively covers not only print monographs and journal articles but also lists aquatic journals with web sites, although two of the URLs provided were incorrect. A reference for Hans Frey’s 1983 lexicon (see above) is missing in the bibliography. Nevertheless, this lexicon overall clearly and knowledgeably addresses the subject of fresh water fishkeeping despite its high price. [jr/bwv]

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Last update: March 2009 [BG]
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