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Phalaenopsis: A Monograph [Paperback]

by Eric Christenson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 30, 2009 1604691719 978-1604691719
Without a doubt, the most widely grown orchids in the world are the species and hybrids of Phalaenopsis, the "moth orchids." Since their discovery by western botanists in the 18th century, phalaenopsis were considered aristocrats even among orchids and were eagerly sought out by the most discerning — and wealthy — of collectors. With advances in orchid propagation and breeding in the middle 20th century, however, these orchids became accessible and affordable to anyone with an eye for exceptional beauty. Few floriculture crops have swamped the marketplace as suddenly as phalaenopsis has in recent years, with millions of plants being produced for the mass market annually. Moth orchids have helped eliminate the misconception of orchids as temperamental conservatory plants only for the very rich. In the words of author Eric Christenson, we are witnessing "the makings of an orchid revolution."

Against this backdrop of change and ferment, Christenson set out to write a definitive monograph of the genus Phalaenopsis, the first thorough treatment since Herman Sweet's revision in 1969. Focusing mainly on the forebears of today's omnipresent hybrids — the species — he always keeps an eye on the characteristics that species might bring to today's hybridization programs. With extensive keys and detailed reviews of the taxonomy of the genus, Christenson provides a thorough picture of the current scientific understanding of these remarkable plants.

In addition to its scientific content, this book offers a wealth of practical information for the orchid hobbyist. A useful chapter on cultivation techniques is included, as is a chapter on hybrids in their many forms, shapes, and colors. More than 200 color photos and 60 drawings enliven the work and provide a fascinating visual overview.

With the full sponsorship and support of the International Phalaenopsis Alliance, Christenson has written an extraordinary book reflecting years of botanical research and horticultural experience with the genus. No orchid specialist will want to be without it.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Christenson devoted decades to the study of phalaenopsis orchids, and his definitive work promises to enlighten aficionados. While Christenson's monograph takes the form of a scholarly study, its detailed breakdown of subspecies, extensive color photographs, and engaging plant descriptions should fascinate newcomers who purchase millions of these plants yearly. Committed hobbyists and professionals involved in breeding hybrids will also find a wealth of stimulating data to assist in the cultivation of these distinctive plants. Alice Joyce
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Research taxonomist Christenson offers a scientific understanding of these plants as well as hybridization and cultural tips."
Library Journal, December 2, 2004 (Library Journal)

"A long–needed revision of the genus Phalaenopsis ... Highly recommended."
Choice, July 2001 (Choice)

"[The author's] definitive work promises to enlighten aficionados ... A wealth of stimulating data to assist in the cultivation of these distinctive plants."
Booklist, January 1, 2001 (Booklist)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press (October 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604691719
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604691719
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #932,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding taxonomy book, nothing else June 18, 2001
Eric Christenson's book is outstanding, unrival on phalaenopsis taxonomy and most welcome. There you will learn that Phalaenopsis amabilis var. formosa should be known as Phal. aphrodite var. formosana. Surprisingly the text doesn't mention var. formosana is fragant.
The photos are a big disappointment to say the least, not only they are alphabetically arranged and doesn't allow comparation among sister species, but most are poorly done for modern standards. In a work such this, it's incredible there are so few close-ups of the lips. What's worse, just one photo features a plant growing in the wild. Even Comber's book "Orchids of Java" gives more clue-photos of phalaenopsis growing in the wild than Eric's book.
The Content page mentions chapters on cultivation, fertilisation hibridisation, etc. DO NOT BUY IT for that! Browse Internet, "Orchids" magazine or any other orchid paper and you will find better information on that subjects than in Eric's book. Taking in mind this book has been sponsored by the International Phalaenopsis Association, it's a disappointment to read such poor written chapters.
Eric Christenson's book is a must have for any phalaenopsis lover with interest on taxonomy. Buy it just for that, but don't expect anything else. Anyhow, this is not the outstanding book it should have been.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The book contains about 323 pages composed of: 11 pages on history and distribution, 13 pages on orchid anatomy and basic taxonomy, 219 pages on each species, 21 pages on cultivation and growing, 15 pages on hybrids, 7 pages on conservation and the future, 27 page bibliography, and a 10 page index. 54 pages of color photographs (most pictures are small measuring only 2" x 3" in size).
Eric Christenson is a plant genius, an outstanding writer, and perhaps the most important orchid authority in North America. Sadly, this is not a well written book.
The text is boring. The descriptions are flat and uninteresting. Photographs are blurry and display unattractive flowers. Content is poorly organized. For example, photographs do not accompany the text description. Photographs are rather all lumped together in the center of the book. There are no maps. I have no clue where Borneo is and a map would be extremely helpful. In addition, I would have liked to have seen distribution maps for each species. Also, I would like to see comparative displays of the plant anatomy, rather than a drawing here and a drawing there. Was I suppose to flip through the pages to compare how species "A" differs from species "B"? Couldn't a visual taxonomic key have been written?
The book has major flaws. Still, I gave it a 4-star rating. Why? Because the remaining material is so critically important. There is an outstanding wealth of information about Phalaenopsis in the book. It contains historical reflection and modern observations. Major taxonomic changes are introduced and discussed. Much of the data is new and has not been observed before, at least not in this amount of detail. It contains excellent plant sketches and voluminous descriptions about plant anatomy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Phalaenopsis book March 13, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is invaluable for several reasons but most easily summed up with the statement that "it's all here". Dr. Christenson is first and foremost a taxonomist, but unlike so many other scientists, he is willing to share his reasons for placing a particular plant in a particular taxon. Every species is discussed thoroughly, and in another rare move, almost all the points of information are the same for each species so that they can be compared with an "apples to apples" approach. All measurements are metric. The keys actually work. Even the photos are in alphabetical order. What is also wonderful is that there is cultivation and conservation information sprinkled throughout the book, not just in those chapters. His horticultural expertise, his conservation ethic, and his sense of humor makes this very readable cover to cover. This book will also be used. If his Encyclopedia of Orchid Species, which should be completed next year, is anywhere near as good, it will be the most important orchid book ever.
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