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Most of us lump plants together in one big family, and when pressed can only explain their grouping by what they're not – not an animal, not a mineral, and so just a plant. In reality, there are hundreds of different plant families, each grouped logically by a unique family history and genealogy. This brings sense and order to the more than a quarter of a million different plant species covering a diverse spectrum that includes soaring sequoias (Cupressaceae), squat prickly pear (Cactaceae), and luxuriant roses (Rosaceae).
RHS Genealogy for Gardeners is an easy-to-use, beautifully illustrated guide to the more than one hundred core plant families every horticulturist, gardener, or budding botanist needs to know. It introduces the basics of plant genealogy and teaches readers how to identify and understand the different structures of flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs, and bulbs. It then walks through each family, explaining its origins and range, and describing characteristics such as size, flowers, and seeds. Each family is accompanied by full-colour botanical illustrations and diagrams. "Uses For" boxes planted throughout RHS Genealogy for Gardeners provide practical gardening tips related to each family.
We have much to gain by learning about the relationships between plant families. By understanding how botanists create these groupings, we can become more apt at spotting the unique characteristics of a plant and identify them faster and more accurately. Understanding plant families also helps us to make sense of – and better appreciate – the enormous biological diversity of the plant kingdom.
Please note that in the USA this book is published by Chicago University Press under the title Plant Families: A Guide for Gardeners and Botanists
Dr Ross Bayton gained a Bachelor's degree in tropical ecology, and later a Masters and a PhD, both in taxonomy. He is the co-author of New Trees: Recent Introductions to Cultivation and used to work for BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.
Simon Maughan studied Plant Science at the University of Edinburgh, and has spent 25 years furthering his knowledge and developing a love of practical gardening and plants. He was employed in 1995 to work on the RHS A-Z of Garden Plants and has worked on many dozens of gardening books, covering all aspects of the subject from species rhododendrons to garden design. He has worked as an editor and publisher for the RHS for over 12 years.