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A unique book for world horticulture

For the first time, horticulturists can become acquainted with the very rich group of ornamental plants that are native to the territory of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Moreover, they can learn them firsthand from the person who for many years collected plants and grew them in the very severe climate of St. Petersburg, Russia, and also who studied them at all seasons of the year. Dr. Tatyana Shulkina worked for many years at the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, the oldest botanical institute in Russia. Here she defended two dissertations and became a distinguished specialist in plant morphology (life-forms) and in taxonomy (Campanulaceae family). She was a Curator of living plant collections of wild plants native to different continents, mostly to mountain regions. Her major was ornamentals from the territory of the FSU.

Years were devoted to creation of this unique book - the first one in English. It introduces the reader to the world of ornamental plants native to the vast territory of northern Eurasia. The FSU is situated in an area of Eurasia whose climates, soils, and vegetation are so varied that its plant world is very rich, in spite of the fact that it has no true subtropical regions. The number of species is comparable to that in North America, and north of Mexico. The territory stretches from the cold Arctic deserts and tundra in the north to the mountain countries of the Caucasus and Transcaucasus, Central Asia and hot-temperate Turan's deserts in the south. East to west the territory extends from the Carpathians mountains to the severe Chukotka and Kamchatka. There are many plants in common with the Aleutian Islands and western Canada; and in the southern regions FSU, with China, Korea, and Japan. The whole territory has more than 21,000 species of vascular plants; 100 genera are endemic, and 130 are almost endemic (their distributions are almost confined to the FSU, but with a small part in Turkey, Iran, Afganistan or China). It is clear that there are many ornamentals among native Russian plants, their number is not less than 5,000 species. Many of them have never been grown anywhere outside the FSU. Even botanical gardens in the FSU (there are about 150) do not have all these native ornamentals.

The territory of the FSU is the homeland for many well-known ornamentals. Most of the species of such notable genera as Tulipa, Allium, Astragalus, Oxytropis, and Cousinia are native to the FSU. Korolkovia, Ostrowskia, Spryginia, Pseudoclausia, Komarovia, Pilopleura, and many other ornamental genera occur only here. Some of these have never been introduced into cultivation, and for others only a limited number of forms and species are cultivated. For example, almost all the horticultural classes of Tulipa are derived from wild species native to the FSU, and there are other species that could initiate new classes of wonderful varieties. We can mention Tulipa vvedenskyi, which is very well represented at Komarov Botanical Institute, and also several other wonderful species such as the low growing T. korolkowii, and T. rosea, taxa, that have never been used for hybridization with other species. This is why this book is very important for horticulturists throughout the world.

The book covers about 400 plant species, only a fraction of the ornamentals that exist in the territory. At the same time book combines two purposes wonderfully: it includes descriptions of plant species that are unknown or poorly known in cultivation, and it is also a guide to the most richest regions where they can be visited easily by botanists and horticulturists. The author herself has visited (and not just once) the many places she recommends to the readers. In both of these aspects, the author is a popularizer and a scientist who has chosen the most important subject to describe. The choice of plants and places to include reflects the author's scientific skill and her practical understanding of growing the plants. She has chosen to describe plants that she knows from her own experience. These plants will grow well in many regions in the world, since they grow, flower and fruit here, in the very severe climate of St. Petersburg. There is not much warmth during the growing period: the sum of effective temperatures here is only 1,5000 C.

Of course, this is only the first introduction to the rich world of ornamental plants from northeastern Asia. Confirmation of this can be seen in the book: the author recommends the rich Russian language literature for the interested botanists. It is strange that there is no such book even in Russian. No one has ever given such an analysis of ornamentals native to the FSU, so short and at the same time so scientifically accurate, not has anyone described the richest regions where these ornamental plants can be seen and collected. That is why this book merits special attention from all botanists throughout the world. It will surely attract many people to the country where the author lived and worked for many years.

Prof. Rudolf Kamelin, President of the Botanical Society of Russia, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Komarov Botanical Institute,
the Russian Academy of Science
St. Petersburg, Russia

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