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Webb's An Irish Flora

Field / Identification GuideFlora / Fauna

By: John Parnell and Tom Curtis

504 pages, 118 colour & b/w illustrations

Cork University Press

Hardback | Mar 2012 | Edition: 8 | #191962 | ISBN-13: 9781859184783
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £29.99 $38/€36 approx

About this book

This handbook will provide the student or keen amateur with a clear and reliable means of identifying those plants which grow wild in Ireland. This book is a comprehensive re-working of the classic and standard "Flora of Ireland": this will be the eight edition of that work. It has been brought fully up to date through incorporating the latest in botanical research and it reflects contemporary and modern approaches to plant classification based on recent advances in genetics.

This book is about the higher plants that grow wild and which are commonly naturalised or otherwise encountered in Ireland. It is designed to facilitate their identification and provide background information on their morphology, distribution and rarity and to educate all those interested in recognising the species of the flora of Ireland. Previous editions of the book have been used by workers outside of the specific field of study of plant identification--such as environmental consultants, the general public, students, professional and amateur botanists etc.

There is a genuine demand for a Flora whose subject matter refers explicitly to Ireland whilst placing that flora in a wider context. Furthermore, a concise flora of a discrete geographical area is of interest internationally to many professional and amateur botanists and gardeners. The book has, is and will be used in student training (it is used as a basic botanical text book in some Universities in Ireland) and on training courses for professionals wishing to improve their skills and for all those needing to improve their levels of botanical expertise.

"Editions 1 to 7 appeared over a 54-year period from 1943 to 1996. David Allardice Webb (1912–96) was the sole author of editions 1 to 6 (1943, 1953, 1959, 1963, 1967, 1977). He died in an auto crash just before publication of edition 7 (1996), authored by Webb, J. Parnell & D. Doogue. Webb became titular with Parnell & T. Curtis’s edition 8 (2012): Webb’s An Irish Flora. Edition 8 has 118 families and 1543 species and subspecies versus, respectively, 132 and 1341 in edition 7.

The 8th edition represents a substantial update. The colorful book cover has a spectacular Irish landscape. Inside are Elaine Cullen’s drawings, mostly in color, though B&W in the glossary. Edition 8 is printed on surprisingly thick paper stock (it takes muscle power to turn the pages) and at 201 × 140 × 50 mm makes a much heftier brick than edition 7. Compared to earlier editions, in edition 8 “changes include: typographic tidying-up of the text; use of a more modern … typeface; further reduction in the use of specialised terminology; removal of Roman numerals from the main body of the text; incorporation of new [color] drawings; incorporation of new species; rewriting of many keys; addition of a new key to trees and shrubs in winter; addition and updating of distributional information; addition of English names for all protected species and expansion of the number of Irish and English common names; inclusion of a list of protected species with comments on conservation” (p. viii—thanks for the clear list). The color map on page xiv is new.

Edition 8 “is substantially different from previous ones, most notably … in the order of the families” (p. viii): lycophytes, monilophytes (ferns, including horsetails), gymnosperms, Nymphaeaceae, monocotyledons (Gramineae terminal, not Orchidaceae), Ceratophyllaceae, and other dicotyledons ranging from Papaveraceae to the terminal Umbelliferae. This phylogenetic arrangement follows A.R. Smith & al. (2006) for pteridophytes and APG III (2009) for angiosperms. The “relatively stable consensus view … [that] has emerged” for the classification of angiosperms justifies “rearranging [their families in] a book such as this” (p. ix). See also the “Considerations” commentary following.

Genera have also been realigned, and comments about new (or old) familial assignments are made in the text. Without thorough analysis, for which I have neither time nor inclination, it is hard to ascertain how extensive reshuffling of genera is. My impression is that it is not consistent or appreciable. For example, family 105 Scrophulariaceae (pp. 338–355; see also the first two titled reviews following) in Ireland has 22 native and alien genera, including Buddleja, but family 104 Plantaginaceae (pp. 333–337) has only 5 genera, including former Callitrichaceae and Hippuridaceae but not any former Scrophulariaceae, as proposed by APG.

In Webb’s An Irish Flora arrangement of genera within families and species within genera is also phylogenetic. Because nothing is alphabetical, finding a taxon is often difficult. Keep fingers handy on the 27-page “index to scientific names and authorities” (the latter a new feature, but only in the index), which is inconveniently sandwiched between the 4-page “index to Irish names” and the 9-page “index to English common names.” Tabbing or color marking the Latin-name index is highly advisable."

– Rudolf Schmid, University of California, Berkeley, Taxon 62(1), February 2013, 200


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Biography

John Parnell is Professor of Systematic Botany at Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Dr. Tom Curtis is an Ecological Consultant and a Research Associate in Botany at TCD and an Adjunct Lecturer in Botany and Plant science, NUI Galway.

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