Flora of the Cayman Islands

Flora of the Cayman Islands
George R. Proctor
Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (distributed by the University of Chicago Press)
Publication Date: 

decorated boards, 724 pp., $136.00

The Cayman Islands occupy all of 264 square kilometers (549 square miles), some 366 kilometers (227 miles) south of Cuba in the western Caribbean. Largely unoccupied until the seventeenth century, these islands support an incredibly diverse flora of 415 native plants, with 29 unique to the islands. This compendium is the ideal guide to this special flora, thanks to hundreds of drawings and color photographs. The introduction provides a guide to the geography and a history of botanical exploration in the Caymans (the first plant explorer, William Fawcett, collected specimens on a brief, 48-hour visit in 1888). The main body of the work is organized along the taxonomic plan of Arthur Cronquist’s The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968). This organizational scheme makes this book quite useful. I found it particularly helpful that non-indigenous plants were set off in the text with square brackets. Given the geographic location of the Caymans, scarcity of soil, and carbonate-rich bedrock, the flora represents plants found in Cuba and Jamaica but also found nowhere else, representing 716 species. Flora of the Cayman Islands is the reference work on the plants of a special locality, and a standard for future floras, with its rich illustrations, excellent organization, and quite readable text.

— Edward J. Valauskas, Curator of Rare Books, Lenhardt Library, Chicago Botanic Garden