Native Orchids of Minnesota by Welby R. SmithSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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2016 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 67
Welby R. Smith. 2012. Native Orchids of Minnesota [revision of Orchids of Minnesota by Welby R. Smith]. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London. xxxi + 254 pp. ISBN 978-0-8166-7823-5. Paperback. $34.95.
Orchids are arguably the most popular element of our Great Lakes flora for keen amateur botanists, so having too many orchid books is an impossibility. Minnesota is a state that has a restricted but interesting orchid flora, perhaps the most notable species being the legendary bog adder’s mouth, Malaxis paludosa, which occurs in the eastern United States in only a few counties in northern Min- nesota. But, of course, the state wildflower is also an orchid, the showy lady’s- slipper, Cypripedium reginae! So it seems only fitting that Minnesota have a sumptuous, well-illustrated orchid book; and in fact this review is for the revi- sion of the book first issued in 1993.
At first sight, this edition, published 19 years after the original, would seem to need few changes for a group as well studied as orchids. In fact, however, this time period corresponds to the great flourish of new understanding of plant rela- tionships brought about by molecular systematics, so, as noted in the introduc- tion, “. . . it soon became apparent that any new edition would have to be entirely re-written in order to accommodate recent scientific advances and the ever grow- ing expectations of the public.” In fact, even in a state as well known as Min- nesota, species new to the state flora are still occasionally being discovered (e.g., Spiranthes casei in 2000), and one species, Calopogon oklahomensis, was not even described until 1995—two years after the publication of the first edition! And now, the title of the book is not quite accurate, as it includes one wild but non-native orchid species, the helleborine orchid, Epipactis helleborine, discov- ered in Minnesota in 1993!
This book succeeds admirably in meeting “. . . the ever growing expectations of the public.” There are 46 species treated in the book, three with two varieties (the varieties also then treated in detail and mapped also, for a total of 49 entities treated). All entities are keyed, and salient features used in some of the difficult keys (e.g., Spiranthes) are illustrated on the facing page. Every entity is de- scribed in detail, and, for each species, additional details about the plant and its habitat and occurrence in Minnesota are presented in a discussion of varying length.
The book is sumptuously illustrated, most species having beautiful line draw- ings (most are by Vera Ming Wong; six are by Bobbi Angell) as well as photos. The photos, most of them by the author, include not only commonly illustrated parts like flowers, but also less frequently illustrated portions such as capsules and roots and rhizomes. Every entity treated is mapped for the state with dots showing exact localities on a county outline map of Minnesota. These are each accompanied by a smaller map showing the distribution of the entity in North America as a whole, thereby increasing the value of this book for users in other
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Great Lakes states. An illustration of the amount of new data in this edition is that in the first edition, the maps were based on 2,915 specimens examined, but for the second, 4435 specimens were examined, a huge increase. The maps are also coded by date—open circles for collections from 1965 or earlier, solid dots for post-1965 collections, thereby providing a small glimpse into potential trends in species occurrence. Other helpful information is provided, such as the phenol- ogy chart at the end of the book and a fairly comprehensive glossary.
Some interesting, and sad, tidbits about Minnesota orchids are that three enti- ties appear to have died out in the state, including Calopogon oklahomensis, which was apparently extirpated from Minnesota before it was even described! The others are Listera convallarioides and Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis. An- other interesting element for Michiganders is that some species that range all the way to the southern edge of Michigan are restricted in Minnesota to the northern part of the state. Notable among these are Arethusa bulbosa, Cypripedium acaule, Malaxis monophyllos, Platanthera orbiculata, and Spiranthes romanzof- fiana. And a few things go much farther north in Minnesota, such as Cypri- pedium candidum and Spiranthes magnicamporum. This may be due to the in- fluence of the prairie-forest border on plant distributions, but it makes for interesting comparisons
So what might be criticisms of the book? Very few indeed. One small thing is that there is no mention that the genus Listera is now subsumed by many authors into Neottia. Also, though the maps with the dots differentiated by date show some species with very few recent records in the south of the state (most strik- ingly Platanthera hookeri), there is little comment on this. But these are small quibbles.
This is a very well done, comprehensive book, based on the author’s own knowledge and experience, and not on secondary sources. It is a valuable and re- liable source of scientific information, but is also well illustrated and very suit- able for an interested naturalist. It belongs on the shelf of every Great Lakes re- gion orchidophile.
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