New titles from BRIT Press introduce readers to plants of the Baja Peninsula, sort through the complexities of fern classification and tell the story of Mary Strong Clemens, an intrepid explorer and botanist of the early 20th century.
The Press is dedicated to making scientific discoveries known to professionals and the public. It seeks to publish books that are as beautiful as they are comprehensive. “Our volumes are as at home in a botanist’s backpack, full of underlining’s and sticky notes, as they are on a coffee table,” says Director Barney Lipscomb.
One book that should interest the general public as well as botanists and historians is a biography of Mary Strong Clemens, a botanical explorer who made pioneering scientific expeditions to China, Borneo, Java, Singapore, Australia, and New Guinea to study and collect plants in the early 20th century. More than 300 plant species are named in honor of the tireless and fearless Clemens. The beautifully illustrated Mary Strong Clemens, a Botanical Pilgrimage: Her Glorious Mission from here to the Outback via Southeast Asia by Nelda B. Ikenberry was described by botanist Bland Crowder as “very cinematic” and “very emotional.”
Two new books focus on parts of the world recognized for their unique plant life and ecosystems. A Systematic Vademecum to the Vascular Plants of Saba by Franklin S. Axelrod, available now, describes 772 species of plants growing on the Caribbean island of Saba. A Guide to the Flora of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir | Una guía a la flora de la Sierra San Pedro Mártir by Alan Harper, Sula Vanderplank, and Jon Rebman, to be released late Novemberis a bilingual guide to history, flora, vegetation and fire ecology of Sierra San Pedro Mártir, the mountainous national park that runs up the spine of the Baja Peninsula.
Finally, three titles focus on particular types of plants. These are essential references for scientists who study these plants as well as for both professional and amateur naturalists working in the field.
- Lichen Field Guide for Oklahoma and Surrounding States by Sheila A. Strawn is a tool for identifying these unique organisms in the field. Lichens are complex life forms and represent a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. They can be indicators of environmental pollution and are often studied as an indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem.
- Mistletoes of the Continental United States and Canada by Robert L. Mathiasen, to be released late November, takes a close look at a plant most people know only as an excuse for a stray kiss at Christmas. In fact, mistletoes are a fascinating group of parasitic flowering plants that have played an important role in the world’s mythologies and as a part of traditional medicine practices.
- A Generic Classification of the Thelypteridaceae by Susan Fawcett and Alan R. Smith, to be published later this year, dives into the classification of the ferns known as Thelypteridaceae—a surprisingly controversial topic among botanists. The details of the dispute are knotty, but the book is a clear and comprehensive study of this diverse fern family and will be an essential reference for botanists and enthusiasts alike.
“We’re excited about our 2021 releases. They represent exactly what we strive to do here at BRIT Press—to make botanical discoveries accessible to as wide a public as possible,” says Lipscomb. “These pages represent years of research and miles walked in search of plants. We are proud to present the result of these scientists’ labors.”