|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 317 December 2, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
Over the past few months we have received a number of requests for information on the requirements for comprehensive inventories of vascular plants. These requests have come from field botanists, government agencies and other organizations. Our standard response to these requests has been the following list of considerations which may be of general interest, but the main reason for reproducing them here is to solicit additional ideas. An improved list of requirements and acknowledgements will be made available at a later date. Here "inventories" refers to baseline floristic information including composition of plant communities and the species present within a specified area. Such information provides a framework for subsequent monitoring, management and stewardship as well the data necessary for evaluation of composition and representivity for protection.
An understanding of why the survey is being done and its potential impact is very important. There are often specific questions but overall and future impact should not be overlooked. It seems remarkable but the fact is that people doing botanical surveys sometimes do not really understand why they are doing them, and this leads to difficulties in both methodology and interpretation.
Substantial knowledge of plant classification, plant morphology and identification procedures and plant collecting and herbarium procedures is required to conduct adequate botanical inventories. A good knowledge of the other workers in the field and of the relevant literature is desirable. With prior arrangement, experts in herbaria are often willing to determine specimens in exchange for a labeled collection that can deposited in the expert's home institution. Such collections should have standard labels and be unmounted (to facilitate evaluation of distinctive features, - too often specimens are mounted with only the upper leaf surface visible and the lower surface covered with glue making the evaluation of microscopic characteristics of the undersurface very difficult). Herbarium curators at universities and museums can provide guidance in appropriate methods of collecting and labelling and they often have a knowledge of experts as a result of loaning their specimens.
People generally cannot find what they do not know, and even when they collect everything they see, there will be a lot that is missed as a consequence of not knowing what to look for. Thus botanical experience on the landscape is extremely beneficial. However, an equally important ability is to understand the limitations of the expertise available. With regard to issues such as species at risk and the use of floristic quality indices as landscape evaluation tools, accuracy and completeness of botanical surveys has become especially critical.
Inventory is a complex and time-consuming task that requires adequate funding. Too often a client requires an inventory but pays so little that all that is possible is a compilation of fragmentary existing data. Insufficient funding may also limit available expertise.
It is important to begin an inventory with a thorough basis of the existing information. This often means library and computer searches and contacting a number of people.
Methods may be adjusted to the question or the area or to other aspects. For example, the "is it present" question can be answered by creation of species lists, but the "what is the trend" question may require both counting or establishment of permanent quadrats that are sometimes advantageously set out during an initial inventory so as to provide data as soon as possible. As another example, recording during random walk may be suitable for a small area whereas permanently marked transects set out to cover conspicuous zonations may be more appropriate for larger areas.
Since flowers and fruits are often necessary to identify plants, and these are available at different times during the season for different species, visits at several time are often necessary to gather identifiable material. Some plants, such as the spring ephemerals in eastern North American deciduous forests (e.g. Erythronium americanum) can be dominant but have completely disappeared above ground after midsummer. Spring, fall and summer visits to each habitat type are usually a minimal requirement for a reliable inventory.
Some species appear only during wet years. This phenomenon is most prevalent in dry habitats, but it is by no means confined to deserts and scrublands. Euphorbia commutata of eastern North American alvars appears only in wet years. Other species such as those in a submerged seedbank waiting for exposure may only appear in very dry years at irregular intervals when water levels are at an unusually low level.
All kinds of wetlands including fens, bogs, marshes, swamps within a study area should be surveyed. Open water is often neglected or overlooked due to difficulty of access or because the submerged plants are inconspicuous. It is a variable habitat that can be alkaline to acid and differs in floristic composition in relation to amounts of wave action, flow rate, water transparency, etc. Variability in open water leads to relatively high biodiversity and significant species (locally rare, at risk, etc.) may also be present. Cliff faces are also sometimes neglected (due to difficulty of access!) but are also very important. Binoculars may be useful for surveying this special habitat.
Consideration should be given to sampling all identified vegetation types within a study area.
Microclimate (exposure such as both cool, moist north-facing slopes and warm, dry south-facing slopes), soil or substrate (acid or alkaline rocks), ecological aspects (areas of grazing versus non-grazing), historical aspects (such as villages of indigenous people where cultivated or selected native germplasm persists), areas recently disturbed for example by fire (where a seedbank has been released) are among the considerations in this category.
Collection of specimens to document important records is a very good idea. The extent of collection depends on what is already available and whether an institutional collection will accept the specimens. Rare species should not be collected or only parts collected (which can be supplemented by photographs). Such specimens of legally protected and rare plants may be essential under certain circumstances (litigation for example).
Procedures for collection, care and submission of botanical specimens for identification are available: (http://res2.agr.gc.ca/ecorc/dao/dao11_e.htm - see also Saville 1962, Brayshaw 1996, Metsger & Byers 1999, etc.)
To the extent possible experts on the local terrain (guides) and experts on the local flora should be contacted and invited to assist either formally with payment or informally depending on circumstances. Local experts may be just as valuable as scientific experts.
It is very useful to prepare a list of at least the significant species that could occur in the area, based on comparison with other more well known areas within the region. This allows for the development of specific search images and specific search behavior, and it increases the likelihood of significant discoveries.
Among the very important items to be included in an inventory report are the methods (recording, identification as well as a precise definition of the area), goals or purpose of the inventory work, context (an evaluation of the inventory results in a regional context at least), limitations (including reference to areas not adequately surveyed, times when visits should have been made but were not, unusual conditions affecting floral display such as drought, and any related considerations that will help to provide a basis for the next inventory), and threats (potential and actual threats to perpetuation of plants and plant communities including pollution, development, overuse, competition with invasive aliens, etc.). For more information on content see the web; for example http://www.landtrustalliance.bc.ca/public/appendices2.pdf
Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica L. - Plumbaginaceae) has traditionally been used by rural and tribal people in traditional system of medicine,and also in Ayurveda. It is a perennial shrub with rambling branches (Chopra, 1933). Leaves ovate with bisexual flowers. The root is light yellow, when dry, internal colour is brown, fracture short,taste acrid and biting. Beacause of its stimulatory property, it is used by different tribes in various ways as stimulant.
The tribe Lodhas which inhabit in larger part of Rajasthan use a piece of root (about 3 cm long) for causing abortion upto 3 to 4 months of pregnancy (placing of root in genital organ for more than three hrs creates abscess). They apply root bark paste with decoction of long peppers 3:2 ratio in venereal diseases. They apply root bark paste after warming for treatment of Leucoderma and give root decoction with cow milk 1:1 ratio for treatment of fever.
The tribe Mundas boil root in mustard oil and apply that oil for treatment of rheumatism and massage paste of stem bark in mustard oil for treatment of paralysis (Salomi-Topno et al, 1998). Santals tribe give root paste with stem bark paste of Dant-rang (Eretia laevis) (3:2) to women as abortifacient (Joshi, 1993). They apply stem bark as cure for piles and prescribe stem bark decoction with paste of black peppers and common salt (5:3:2) as appetizer.
Oraons tribe use root to cauterize snake bite wound and give orally root paste to patients and believe that is patient passes stool, he or she is safe (Jain,1991).
Folk women of different parts of Assam use root pieces for permanent sterlizition. It shows antifertility effects.
The tongas and shangaans use the root as a leprosy remedy. The powered material is taken internally and applied locally.
Other ethnic communities give root decoction with cow milk 1:5 against body ache.
Different tribes apply root juice for creating blisters on body for soliciting sympathy. They use root decoction as antiscabies.
In Japan and Phillipines root is used for causing abortion. In Tanzania root with other plant parts is used on tumors. In West Africa and Ghana root is used as vesican. The plant is used as vulnery in new Calidonia. In the gold coast, the roots are used as an enema to cure piles.
Chitrak has been used by the tribal and non tribal rural folks for the treatment of different kinds of ailments of their domestic animals having stomach troubles (Sikawar, 1994). A cold infusion is used in influenza and black water fever and juice is used as a tatoo dyes in Africa. In west Africa, the root is traditinally mixed with okra (Hibiscus esculentus ) to treat leprosy. In Nepal a decoction of the root is used to treat baldness.
This plant also has important role in Ayurvedic medicinal system of India.
The root and root bark and bitter, hot, dry stomachic, carminative, astringent to the bowels, anthelmintic, alterative to cure intestinal troubles, dysentary, leucoderma, inflamation, piles, bronchitis, vata and kapha, itching, diseases of the liver, consumption, ascites, "tridosha" good in anemia (Ayurveda) (Kirtikar and Basu, 1981).
The root has bitter taste bechic laxative, expectorant. stomachic, tonic abortifacient, alexipharmic, good appetizer, useful in laryngitis, rheumatism, diseases of the spleen, leucoderma, ring worm, scabies. The leaves are caustic, vesicant, aphrodisiac, good for scabies(Yunani) (Sharma, 1996). A ticture of the root bark has been employed as an antiperiodic .
It acts as powerful sudarific.
During the present investigations, it was found that different medicinal system, tribal and non tribal are utilizing this plant to cure different ailments in various ways. Like the other various aspects, ethnobotany offer vast scope for medicinal reserach in modern values. The plant species which are common in tribal and indigenous system of medicine with thier local names , distribution provide scientific evaluation and wider applications.
Lavishly produced, this attractive work treats 54 genera, Androsace to Zauschneria, and some 650 species that are found in eleven states from the southernmost Rocky Mountains to the Brooks Range of Alaska, but excluding the western Canadian provinces. With this distribution, "western United States" would have been a better delimiter in the title. The genera included are both familiar and unfamiliar ones, with Aquilegia, Astragalus, Campanula, Castilleja, Dodecatheon, Erigeron, Eritrichium, Gentiana, Hymenoxys, Lewisia, Oxytropis, Penstemon, Phlox, Primula, Saxifraga, Silene, and Townsendia receiving the lengthiest discussion in this well-illustrated book--495 color photos and 2 color maps. Missing are a few alpine genera, as Arenaria, one of my favorites, as well as familiar low woody taxa such as various ericads of the alpine heath phase. The species treated receive a good amount of morphological and distributional information. Concluding each account of a genus are helpful sections on propagation and cultivation; sometimes this information is quite extensive, as 5 pages for Lewisia. A general chapter on the tricky cultivation of alpine plants follows (rather than precedes, the usual practice) the descriptions of taxa. A valuable 10-page overview discusses alpine habitats in the western United States. Fide the transitory dust jacket, editor Rick Lupp wrote this overview, but there is no mention of this anywhere in the book. An appendix arraying species by state covers 16 pages but this information might have been more economically and usefully arranged in tabular form. Contributing to the lavish production are rather wide margins, including a two-column format and ragged-right margins that I think are unjustified. These are minor quirks, however. This is an immensely valuable work treating a subject and taxa mostly underemphasized or neglected in standard horticultural accounts. -- Rudolf Schmid, UC
Franklyn H. Perring & S. Max Walters's Atlas of the British flora published in 1962 set a high standard in its mapping taxa on a 10-km2 grid. Now four decades later its mammoth book and CD-ROM replacement raises the bar. The book gives 46 pages of introductory essays on the project (see heading) and then 810 pages of distribution maps, with text, for 2412 taxa of vascular plants in the British Isles, including all native species, commoner hybrids, well- established alien species, and infraspecific taxa, or 750 more taxa than in the 1962 atlas. There are plots for pre- 1970, 1970-86, and 1987-99 records. The distribution maps derive from a database of over nine million records, including some five million collected since 1987 by over 1600 volunteers. The text for each taxon gives information on habitat, changes in distribution of native taxa, dates of introduction for alien taxa, extra-British-Isles distribution, and key references.
The book weighs a "ton" and rather than carrying it some 2 km from the university library to my parked car I xeroxed the title and contents pages to work up the above heading information and happily took home only the CD-ROM. This installs easily and completely and becomes unnecessary unless the program, which takes only 250MB of hard-disk space and works fine on my five- year-old Pentium II 350 system, is uninstalled. The CD-ROM contains the data for the 2412 taxa but "also presents information [for] 942 taxa that were not included in the book because of constraints on space. These are introduced species that were recorded in less [sic--i.e., fewer] than 50 10-km squares" (from "getting started" file). Help information is available in the form of "getting started" Gates-Word (its table of contents is missing) and Acrobat-pdf readable files. Either file should be examined for the more sophisticated potentials of the CD-ROM, as generating a checklist for a region, producing additional maps with environmental overlay information, etc. Simple access to the data maps, however, is straightforward, allowing an initial choice between the 2412 "book" taxa versus the 942 strictly CD-ROM taxa, then Latin versus common names, and finally an option to scroll somewhat tediously through the names to the desired one to obtain the same map and text as in the book (the CD-ROM gives references but lacks a bibliography).
This brief review does not do justice to the immense value of this monumental project. A model of data presentation (OUP should make the CD-ROM available separately at nominal cost), this essential work will allow reassessment of the conservation status of various taxa or reevaluation of the threats of alien invaders. Bravo, to one and all, including the over 1600 volunteers. -- Rudolf Schmid, UC