PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) 11(1). Medicinal Plants 1 by G.H. Schmelzer and A. Gurib-Fakim (eds). Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation/Backhuys Publishers/CTA.; 2008. Paperback; 790 pages. ISBN: 978-3-82361532-3. $199.99.
PROTA 11(1) is the first of 4 volumes describing plant species of tropical Africa traditionally used in local medicine. This volume is a comprehensive description of 134 important medicinal plants including wild, cultivated, and partially domesticated species. The main objective of this volume is to make available the extensive knowledge of medicinal plants of tropical Africa.
In addition, more than 200 medicinal plants with minor importance are described and over 400 species with scarce information are mentioned as related species under the subheadings “Other Botanical Information.” For example Clutia abyssinica (Euphorbiaceae) is extensively reviewed, and at the end of the article, other Clutia species from eastern and southern Africa, with limited or less information, were also included.
The book is authored by recognized scientists with extensive collective experience on African medicinal plants. More than 80 contributors are listed at the beginning of the book with affiliations and the species chapters they contributed. All of the species are treated with the same consistent format, which allows the reader to make useful, effective, and convenient comparisons.
The introduction provides a clear explanation of the species included in this volume. PROTA assigns to all plants one primary use (if relevant) and one or more secondary uses. Only those plants having primary uses as medicinal plants are included in PROTA 11. In this volume, selected families are treated including Apocynaceae, Asphodelaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Loganiaceae, Menispermaceae, Solanaceae, and other families with fewer medicinal plants. In addition, in the introduction, there is an explanation of the format of each account or article. For example, a distribution map is added for major species, offering a quick visualization of the distribution of the species. Another advantage of this volume is that for each major (and some lesser-known) species, it contains morphological description and a line drawing with the distinctive characteristics of the taxa.
The organization of the taxa in the book is alphabetical, based on the scientific name with the authority and that format continues throughout the book. This includes protologue (first publication of the taxonomic name), family, chromosome number, synonyms (most commonly used), vernacular names (of the area of distribution and only in official languages— English, French, Portuguese and Swahili), origin and geographic distribution, uses, properties (where possible with support of traditional uses), botany (or description), ecology, genetic resources and breeding, prospects, major references and author(s). All references cited in the text are alphabetically ordered at the end of the book, and constitute an important source of information. The book concludes with an index of scientific and vernacular names. The addition of a glossary would have been useful particularly for the non-specialist or students.
This publication is a great reference and an extensive source of information. The writing is accessible for specialists and nonspecialists alike. This book is suggested to anyone studying medicinal plants of Africa, geographic distribution of plant life in Africa, ethnobotanists, ecologists, anthropologists, and to advanced students of plant science. This book will be a practical addition to any research, educational, or industry library.
—Adolfina Koroch, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Science Borough of Manhattan Community College City University New York, NY