Threatened Plants of New Zealand

After last week’s book review lambasting an author who was way out of her depth, the first indication that this publication is in a different league altogether is the use of multiple authors, all with short biographies which demonstrate a depth of experience and knowledge of the topic. You can be sure that this major reference book has been extensively peer reviewed.

It was a revelation here just how many of our native plants are threatened with extinction – one in thirteen apparently. We knew about Pennantia baylisiana (down to a single, naturally occurring plant in its habitat on Three Kings Island) because we have a large cutting-grown specimen from it in our own garden. Similarly we knew that the kakabeak was seriously endangered but not that it too was reduced to a single plant in the wild. Many of the other threatened plants were news to us and the authors are flagging real concerns that we are in danger of losing our diversity of native plants. Alas plants are not as cute as black robins or kakapo so they do not garner the same public attention.

This is a sumptuous hardback book with a great deal of technical information but well organised and presented so that a broad spectrum of interested readers can find the information they need. Each entry has its botanical name, conservation status measured by accepted national and international convention, botanical description, details of how to recognise and identify the plant, its distribution, habitat and threats to survival. Add in several photographs and a map showing the location in the wild and you end up with a really good reference book which will last for many years in this country. Its somewhat hefty price-tag is justified and anybody with an interest in our native flora or botany will want to have their own copy on the bookshelf.

Threatened Plants of New Zealand by Peter de Lange, Peter Heenan, David Norton, Jeremy Rolfe and John Sawyer. (Canterbury University Press; ISBN: 978 1 877257 56 8).