Field Guide to the Rattans of Africa

The Sunderland volume is, as the title suggests, a field guide. It is a most usable manual for the identification of the species of rattan that occur in Africa. Of the 650 different species of rattan only 22 in four genera occur in West and Central Africa, but like their Asian relatives they are much used locally as a source of cane. This book is well illustrated with several colour photos of each species and a good line drawing by artist Lucy Smith.

Distribution maps of each species are provided and there are notes on habitat, distribution, uses and conservation status for each species. Five species are listed in the conservation status as vulnerable mainly due to over collection for cane and two rare species are listed as endangered. It is good to see that the rest of the species are not considered to be under any threat at present. In the case of the more widespread species there are a huge number of vernacular names listed by country and tribal language which reflects their social importance in the region.

Since rattans are so widely used and have further potential for commercialisation this book should be of considerable use to both ethnobotanists and development agency workers. It is easy to use, abundantly illustrated and the keys for identification work well.

Ghillean Prance, Dec 2007