Book Review – A to Z South East Asian Orchid Species

July 8, 2008 at 5:03 am | Posted in books | Leave a comment

I’m a sucker for books. More so for books on orchids and related paraphenalia. This is a book that I had been wanting to get for quite some time now. His earlier publication on “Lowland Orchids of Papua New Guinea” was interesting but not really hobbyist-friendly; too much “science” involved and too few colour plates. In contrast, ” A to Z South East Asian Orchid Species” (A to Z for short) published by the Orchid Society of South East Asia (OSSEA) seems precisely to be targeted for the average orchid lover, one who’s interested to find out a bit more.  

Don’t get deceived by the name. “A to Z” does not contain all the known orchid species describe from SEA, nor did it profess to have contained so in the first place. But for me, this book does not fall short of any of the other areas it aims to fulfil.

Firstly, it serves well as a guidebook for floral identitification to more commonly seen orchid species from SEA, both in cultivation and in nature. But being common isn’t exactly just what O’Bryne had intended to be; it also contains photographs and information on rare and unusual orchid species which at the point of its publication, known from drawings and sometimes only textual description. There’s also an inclusion of several species which had been described by him around the time of publication, one most notably interesting for me is Malaxis hoi. A distribution map and a “plant habit guide” for each species is also provided for every species featured. The taxonomic details are also up-to-date e.g. Bulb. putidum instead of Bulb. fascinator.

Secondly, it contains information on cultivation requirements e.g. temperature, shade and watering requirements, the last being decided upon by the raining patterns of regions where the species is endemic to. It even contains advice on cultivation treatment pertaining to the choice of pot, as well as lime requirement for certain species. In short, its a wonderul book to own and read for the novice orchid gardener like yours truly.

This book contains 168 pages and covers 400 species across 94 genera. To speak fairly, no book of such a size would be able to contain the plethora of orchid species from the SEA region and at the same time give each description a fair treatment. But the choice of species O’ Bryne had put up in “A to Z” is both sound and satisfactory. It is highly graphic and photographs are of very high quality. One can probably only quibble over the lack of pictures of foliage which many of the orchid species included have been widely admired for and might be instrumental for their identification, e.g. Malaxis spp. Paphiopedilum spp. , Phalaenopsis celebensis, Phal. schilleriana etc. There’s also no photo entry for Zeuxine spp.

Despite the title, the book covers species all the way to the Vietnam-China border, e.g. Paph. malipoense. It’s also very portable and handy, making it convenient to bring along to nurseries for identification needs. Overall, its an wonderful book to have and most certainly earns a worthy place in any orchid lover’s reference library.




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