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Orchids of Tropical America:   An Introduction and Guide


Principle Author Joe E. Meisel

Review by Jake Burroughs


Our fearless president Abigail Chang visited the San Francisco Orchid Show this past winter and procured some booty to include in the NWOS treasure chest of goodies.  One such addition to the NWOS library is “Orchids of Tropical America: An Introduction and Guide” by Joe E. Meisel, Ronald S. Kaufmann, and Franco Pupulin, of which she asked me to review right away and I gladly accepted.  As it turns out this is a great little guide and welcomed addition to the NWOS Library.

Those looking for a comprehensive encyclopedia of every orchid, in every detail, throughout Tropical America, should not bother with this text.  Though over 120 genera are profiled, this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of tropical orchids. Rather “Orchids of Tropical America” is perfect to take along on a trip to South America orchid hunting.   As a matter of fact that is precisely what makes this book so appealing is that you can actually use it (not the NWOS copy of course) in the field where it would be easily carried and accessible, and the $29.95 price tag makes it affordable and accessible to your wallet as well. 

Easily located genus ‘chapters’ comprise the bulk of the book where a brief description is followed by distribution and diversity notes, ending with ecology and natural history on the given genus.  Color photographs accompany each account.  Easy to read descriptions make this guide perfect for any age, and even the most seasoned orchid collector will find rare gems inside.  Peppered throughout the species accounts the reader can find natural history notes and geography lessons where you least expected them.  Certainly required reading for anyone travelling to Tropical America in the near future.

The absolute highlight of this already great guide could be easily overlooked by the casual thumberthrougher.  Tucked just before the bibliography is a chapter entitled “Where to See Orchids: Nature Reserves and Conservation Sites,” and these 16 pages are worth the $29 price tag unto itself!  An awesome guide that offers brief descriptions and notes including altitude ranges, accessibility, accommodations (or lack thereof), as well as website contacts.  To find this information compiled even online is rare… again a must read / copy chapter for any orchidophile traveling southward.