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This 742-page document covering an important segment of the intermountain vascular flora was easy to relate to the needs and interests of the members of the New Mexico Native Plant Society; at least I hope to speak for the interests of the members of our society and others who may read this review. This volume treats at least 611 taxa at the species level, of which at least 258 are found in the state of New Mexico, which is 42.5% of the species treated. That figure speaks to the importance of this volume in our libraries or at least within easy access. This high percentage of coincidence is important to us, as is the high quality of the detailed descriptions of those 258 species (and all the others). Salient plant differences are clearly defined in the dichotomous keys provided. In plant identification, ambiguity, redundancy, and overlap can result in confusion for the end users of this type of publication; and therefore, we are very appreciative of descriptions resulting from the observation of a wide spectrum of variability within each taxon. The depth of the descriptions manifested in this volume is its strongest point. The clear, detailed drawings are not only original and excellent but also they accurately back up the descriptions.
Some of the large families treated include Polygonaceae, Ranunculaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Cactaceae, Nyctaginaceae, and Montiaceae. The largest genera are Eriogonum, Ranunculus, Atriplex, Silene, Rumex, Delphinium, Aquilegia, Persicaria, Chenopodium, and Opuntia. All of these groups are important to us in New Mexico as well as to everyone else in the West because of the extent of the floristic divisions that the Intermountain Region shares with the rest of the western states as well as Mexico and Canada.
The long, thoughtful, and studious years invested in plant taxonomy as well as ethnobotanical information, and the evolutionary inter-relationships between taxonomic groups, are an indisputable reflection of the unique group of authors who have pooled their knowledge to produce this volume. The main authors’ experiences and interests in the taxonomic groups treated here started developing when they were undergraduates living and studying in the Intermountain West. Collaborators include our very own Richard Spellenberg who contributed Nyctaginaceae to this volume. Excellent and informative reading is found in the commentaries and discussions along with the known geographical distribution for each species at the end of each taxon description.
The extended list of synonymy under many taxa sends a clear message from the authors: that is, they follow a strictness about creating (or not creating) new taxa from among [End Page 265] the great number of specimens examined and the inherent variability displayed. They could have gone the other way, proposing specific, sub-specific, or varietal status responding to the many variations measured. We thank them for their strictness. When intra- and inter-specific variability can be related to habitat differences, then the further breakdown (splitting!) becomes useful and fitting. We are not blind to variability; on the contrary, we are awed by it, but the line must be drawn at some point, and I congratulate the authors on their consistency. [End Page 266]
David Lee Anderson is Land Manager and Botanist at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. He is actively involved with the Native Plant Society.