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Book Review

The Nature of Plants - Habitats, Challenges and Adaptations
John Dawson and Rob Lucas

Reviewed by Pat Webb

Book cover

This is a book I wish I had read twenty or thirty years ago!

I am enjoying it immensely, and after an initial read, find myself returning to various chapters. I found it in the New Books shelf of our local library recently.

The authors are both New Zealanders. John Dawson has a Doctorate in Botany and has now retired from Victoria University, Wellington. He has written a number of other books. Rob Lucas is a Lecturer in the Natural Resources Centre of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. Together, both men have written other books about New Zealand flora.

This is a global book - looking at the habitats of plants from deserts; plants adapting to living with too much water; plants which grow in salty or toxic soils, etc. There are so many fascinating stories told about how plants adapt to different challenges. Most importantly, the book is 'reader-friendly' - written in language a layman can read, comprehend and enjoy.

This book has many superb color photographs, from close-ups of plants to stunning landscapes. Two pages stand out for me - one showing two Asteracaeae cushion plants growing in the high country of New Zealand. The other shows a Banksia grove in West Australia damaged by fire, with a picture showing clearly the charred seed heads of the banksia with follicles wide open and three recently germinated plants.

There is a great chapter on the 'love-hate' relation- ship of plants with insects and animals.

The book has a glossary, bibliography and index. This is a beautifully written book, well presented and is a superlative example of fine printing. It would be a lovely book to own or give as a gift to a 'plants person'. I shall certainly be borrowing it again from the library. I would have gardened better, more efficiently and with more understanding had I read it years ago.

Highly recommended.

The Nature of Plants - Habitats, Challenges and Adaptations

John Dawson and Rob Lucas
CSIRO Publishing / Timber Press USA, 2005
RRP $64.95
Hardback, 314 pages, 240 mm x 190 mm, colour photographs and illustrations

From 'Growing Australian', the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), December 2005.

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