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The Natural History of Plants


HAVING noticed, on its publication, the first volume of Prof. Baillon's “Histoire des Plantes” (see NATURE, vol. i, p. 52) we need scarcely do more than call attention to the English edition which now lies before us. The translation, we may say at the outset, appears to us to be well done; the meaning of the original is, as far as we have observed, carefully preserved; and a better knowledge of his subject is shown by the translator than is always the case in English renderings of foreign scientific works. The co-ordination of the natural orders followed in the work is, as was mentioned in our notice of the original, novel; whether it will stand is a question on which we ought not, perhaps, to express an opinion until the plan is more fully developed. We could have wished that the author had given in this first volume some general sketch of his new system, with a defence of its peculiarities. So competent an authority as Prof. Baillon cannot have departed from the ordinary arrangement without cogent reasons, which we should have liked to have known. It is always a great advantage to English systematists to know the views of their fellow-workers on the Continent. We miss also the great assistance that is afforded to the systematist by a tabulated clavis of the genera belonging to each natural order. The amount of information contained in the volume as to the various relationships of the natural orders described in it, the morphology of their genera, the distribution of the different types, and the economic products obtained from the species, is immense. It possesses, however, the defect so common in foreign scientific works, of the absence of any table of contents or index to the subjects treated of. Had the publishers of the English edition supplemented the index of genera and subgenera with one referring to the various topics discussed, they would have rendered the English edition a practically more useful contribution to botanical literature than the French original. The illustrations are profuse, and of that excellence which we look for in vain in works originally published in this country. We append one of the well-known “Allspice Tree,” the Calycanthus floridus. The small order Calycanthaceæ, including only the American Calycanthus and the Japanese Chimonanthus, is one the true position of which has. been much disputed by systematists. Baillon makes it a “series” of Moni-miaceæ, with which he also unites the Australian Athero-spermeæ, bringing this order forward from its usual position among the Incompletæ to close alliance with Magnoliaceæ and Anonaceæ.

The Natural History of Plants.

By H. Baillon. Translated by Marcus M. Hartog. Vol. I. (London: L. Reeve and Co. 1871.)

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B., A. The Natural History of Plants . Nature 4, 199–200 (1871).

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