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Field guide to the bulbs of Greece

A Field Guide to the Bulbs of

Greece, by Christopher Grey-

Wilson, 224 pp, 2010,

Alpine Garden Society, £26,

isbn 0900048808

 

Greece has Europe’s richest flora

and a wealth of spring- and autumn-

flowering bulbs. ‘Bulbs’ sensu lato (a

misnomer, like ‘alpines’!) of course

includes plants with bulbs, corms,

tubers and rhizomes. The author of

this profusely and beautifully

illustrated book is an experienced

guide to the variety and beauty of the

Greek bulbous flora who has spread

his net widely. He not only describes

well-known and less familiar bulbs of

spring and early summer, but also

several dicotyledonous genera and

the so often neglected display of

autumn-flowerers.

 

The taxonomy is sensible, the

descriptions concise. The author

wisely keeps Chionodoxa apart from

Scilla and takes a narrow view of

Cretan tulips, retaining C. bakeri as

distinct. Colchicum, Crocus and

Cyclamen are valuable synopses of

recent taxonomic and floristic

research, and the brave section on

star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea and

Ornithogalum) is one of few accessible

accounts of these genera. It is good

to see orchids taking their place

alongside other bulbs, rather than in

their own volume. There is a sane

account of bee orchids (Ophrys) and a

liberal view of modern DNA-based

orchid taxonomy.

 

This is a field guide in that clear

simple keys link species descriptions;

but the text is more narrative, with

pictures sometimes straying from

accompanying words. The

‘landscape’ format suggests the

book’s natural habitat is as much

coffee table as rucksack – no bad

thing in itself. The handsome layout

is rather cramped, and a little harder

editing would have eliminated some

typos and minor inconsistencies.

 

Field botanists, gardeners and

anybody who loves bulbs, wild

flowers, Greece or the wider

Mediterranean will welcome this

book. Hopefully it will encourage

gardeners to grow more of these

spectacular plants. Above all, it well

records Greece’s superb autumn

bulb flora, which should encourage

out-of-season visits.

 

John Akeroyd is a botanist and

conservationist with 40 years’

experience of the Greek flora

Review from RHS magazine, The Plantsman, December 2010 p 259

Christopher Grey-Wilson
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