Christine Strelan - Between the Covers


Edited by Janet Marinelli

Dorling-Kindersley 2004

Plants ability to capture solar energy sustains almost all life on earth. Where would we be without them? We eat them, wear them, use the animals that feed on them, and drive cars fuelled by the remains of their ancestors. Theyve been here a lot longer than us and will probably remain in some form after weve consumed ourselves into extinction. The process of photosynthesis has to be the most efficient means of survival on the planet. If only humans could do it, wed stop ruining the world with cattle and big crops, and just live off light and water. Lets go green, literally! Imagine the whole population with chlorophyll in our veins: walking green solar-panels with no need for meat or fast food! Maybe we will finally find out what the trees have been thinking all this time...

But seriously folks, this is a wonderful book. Janet Marinelli has assembled a crack team of botanists and photographers to create a comprehensive guide to our vegetable friends out there. Conservation is their top priority. Nearly every page has information about preserving habitats, or the destructive effects of pollution and development. The uniqueness of particular environments is emphasised, as is the importance of maintaining diversity. Marinelli introduces us to the main botanical zones tropical forests, wet grasslands etc then explores individual species. For easy reference, these are listed in groups, such as Bulbous Plants, Cacti and Succulents, or my favourite, Orchids and Bromeliads. There is information about the plants native habitats, possible threats to their survival and advice on private cultivation. For example, the giant redwood (sequoia sempervirens) is the tallest living thing on earth, one tree reaching 112 metres. The eight species of Sun Pitcher plants (heliamphora) are found only on the Guiana Highlands in South America. Despite their extreme rareness, theyre fairly safe at the moment, as the plateaus on which they live can only be reached by helicopter. And the cactus garden on page 472 is spectacular.

Finally, the book ends with a list of websites and addresses for conservation societies. After absorbing this massive amount of plant-facts, Im about ready to sprout leaves and attempt photosynthesis. Pass the chlorophyll...

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