Whitelock, Loran M. 2002. The Cycads. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 374pp and 505 color plates. ISBN 0-88192-522-5.
The bible, newly minted, for U.S. $60. I have long depended on Timber Press to keep me supplied with very well done books about trees, and now they have produced a fitting complement to their fine volume on the conifers. They could hardly have chosen a better author for this tome. Loran Whitelock has given a good part of a lifetime to his passion for cycads and has traveled the world while building one of the finest collections extant. No mere plant-hunter, he has grown to be a leading exponent of cycad cultivation and has also worked long to protect these plants, most of which are threatened and many endangered in the wild, from extermination at the hands of collectors. This book describes the 269 known (at the time of publication) cycad species. For each species it provides a detailed description, notes its habitat and distribution, provides information on its cultivation, describes its conservation status, and often provides some ethnobotanical information as well. Nearly all species are also represented among the more than 500 glossy color photographs. Besides these species descriptions, which together occupy 288 pages, there are also chapters treating overall distribution, classification, morphology and reproduction, cultivation, propagation, conservation, and ethnobotany. The book is not as botanically rigorous as I would have liked, and is aimed rather at the gardener than the botanist, but it still puts more of the Cycadales between two covers than anything else yet written.