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The Genus Epimedium and Other Herbaceous Berberidaceae Including the Genus Podophyllum

The Genus Epimedium and Other Herbaceous Berberidaceae Including the Genus Podop
William T. Stearn
Timber Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 342 p., $49.95

Epimediums, or barrenworts, are a diverse group of herbaceous plants. This is a fact perhaps lost on the average gardener who has only a handful of barrenworts to select from at the local garden center. Botanist William T. Stearn's The Genus Epimedium admirably outlines the many species, hybrids and cultivars that have been identified to date. The vast majority of Epimedium species come from Asia, in particular China, and more than half of the species listed in the book have been discovered since 1938.The Genus Epimedium is an expanded edition of Stearn's monograph originally published in 1938, and it is an exciting modern reference for the serious botanist and gardener alike.

The monograph covers 54 Epimedium species as well as hybrids and cultivars. The cultivar list does not seem to be as complete as it could be, but it does contain a good list of newer and older cultivars. The first part of the book is devoted to Epimedium, beginning with a valuable discussion of morphology, geographical distribution and cultivation information. It also contains a taxonomic key to the species and hybrids, which will be helpful to anyone who has inherited a barrenwort and is wondering what species it could be. The discussion of each species typically includes a botanical description, native distribution information, nomenclatural citations and historical summary. Botanical illustrations or photographs represent many, but not all, of the species. Those species lacking illustrations or photographs may be difficult for the reader to picture with words alone.

The title of the monograph leaves no mystery as to what's inside. The second part covers the other herbaceous members of the barberry family (Berberidaceae) — a generally lesser-known group of plants. Part III is an excellent chapter by Julian M.H. Shaw on the genus Podophyllum (May apple). It is laid out like the chapter on Epimedium and is also nicely illustrated.

The Genus Epimedium is a decidedly British publication, but I was pleased to see that William Stearn dedicates the book in part to Darryl Probst, an American plantsman who specializes in Epimedium. His contribution to the book is also evident in the cultivar listing. The Genus Epimedium is not a gardening book but rather an invaluable botanical reference for anyone desiring more information on a unique group of herbaceous plants.

— Richard Hawke, Plant Evaluation Manager, Chicago Botanic Garden