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The Native Plants Journal 5.1 (2004) 99-100

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Tropical Tree Seed Manual. JA Vozzo, Editor. USDA Forest Service, Washington DC, Agricultural Handbook Number 721; 899 p; paper; 2002.

The title of this massive book does not completely reflect its contents. It is more than a seed manual sensu stricto. Chapters 2 "Collection" by JK Francis; 3 "Storage" by TD Hong and RH Ellis; and 6 "Pathology" by RK Mittell and others in Part I; and all of Part II "Species Descriptions" of 196 species by many authors, contain the kind of material I generally think of as being appropriate for inclusion in seed manuals. Material covered in the other 6 chapters in Part I— Chapters 1 "Seed Biology" by EM Flores; 4 "Orthodox and Recalcitrant Seeds" by P Berjak and NM Pammenter; 5 "Dormancy and Germination" by MT Smith and others; 7 "Ecological Life Histories" by AE Lugo and JK Zimmerman; 8 "Ethnobotany" by AL De MacVean; and 9 "Notes on Tropical Dendrology" by EL Little Jr—generally is not included in seed manuals. Following Part II is a long list of useful references (p 807-860), a glossary, short biographical sketches of the various authors, and indices of common and scientific names.

The longest (p 13-118), most thorough, chapter in the book is the one by Flores. All aspects of the reproductive biology of angiosperms (relatively little on gymnosperms), that is, micro- and megasporogenesis; embryogenesis; flower, fruit, and seed morphology (also seed anatomy); pollination ecology; seed dispersal; dormancy and germination; and seedling growth and morphology, are discussed in considerable detail. Flores' chapter includes many excellent color photographs and diagrams. Other chapters that I particularly enjoyed reading [End Page 99] were the ones by Lugo and Zimmerman, and Smith and others. These 3 chapters contain many of the essentials for a course in tropical plant reproductive biology.

Part II contains various types of information on 196 species, (for example, native geographical range, flowering/ fruiting phenology, uses to man, growth habit, habitat, seed biology). Most descriptions are accompanied by drawings of a twig, many of them with flowers or fruits. Seeds and/or seedlings are illustrated for most of the species. Eighteen species (in 4 families) are gymnosperms, and 178 (48 families) are angiosperms. Genera with the most species include Pinus (11), Acacia (7), Quercus (6), and Eucalyptus (5), and families with the most species are Fabaceae (60), Meliaceae (12), Myrtaceae (8), and Euphorbiaceae (7). Of the 196 species, 154 are native to tropical America.

I used information on embryo morphology (that is, underdeveloped versus fully-developed) in fresh seeds from Baskin and Baskin (1998) and seed germination in the Tropical Tree Seed Manual to determine whether seeds of 164 species were dormant or nondormant, and if dormant to which of the 5 dormancy classes each species belongs using the classification system of Baskin and Baskin (1998). Insufficient information for the remaining 32 species precluded any determination of dormancy status. Seeds of 115 of the 164 species, including several legumes, were nondormant (no pretreatment required for seeds to germinate). Of the 49 species whose seeds were dormant (required pretreatment to germinate), 26 had physical dormancy (water-impermeable seed coat); 20 physiological dormancy (low growth potential of embryo); none, except perhaps Acacia mearnsii, combinational dormancy (water-impermeable seed coat and a physiologically-dormant embryo); one, Dendropanax arboreus, morphological dormancy (underdeveloped embryo); and two, Cocos nucifera and Michelia champaca, morphophysiological dormancy (underdeveloped embryo that is physiologically dormant). Sufficient information is given in the manual to indicate that 25 of the 196 species are drying sensitive (recalcitrant). Overall, however, this book contains a rather meager amount of information on the seed biology of the 196 species. Thus, much research remains to be done both on the basic and applied aspects of seeds of economically important forest trees in tropical America. Pulling together what is known about the seed biology of these 196 species is a step in the right direction.

The book is well written, and I found only a very few typos. Further, the physical appearance of this book is excellent...


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