For the more than 40 years that I have studied cacti, I have felt a need for such a book as The Cactus Family. I envisioned a large-format, extensively illustrated book written in a scientifically accurate but readable style, a book that would be useful to those interested in succulent plants, to students, taxonomists specializing in the family Cactaceae, ethnobotanists, conservationists, indeed to anyone who might wish to know more about these unusual plants of the New World. The Cactus Family is a thorough survey of the diversity of cacti in their varied natural habitats, but cacti maybe enjoyed in the garden—ever more so when they are understood and grown responsibly—and Dr. Roger Brown has contributed a chapter on cactus cultivation.
The writing of The Cactus Family has largely been a joy. It has been both challenging and rewarding to research each genus and the many other topics involving cacti. Happily, the preparation of text and photographs involved considerable fieldwork in many regions of North and South America, where cacti occur. Photography has long been a great love of mine, an interest nurtured by my father when I was young. He and I spent many hours together learning darkroom and other photographic techniques, much to my benefit. I have also been honored by the support and cooperation of other cactus researchers and dedicated enthusiasts in the writing of this book.
A number of decisions had to be made in the organization of the contents. I would not pretend to be enough of an authority on many groups of cacti to decide which species should or should not be included, to say nothing of which genera. The amount of information available and the complexity of many cactus relationships make it nearly impossible for any individual to develop a sound classification of the cacti. Thus it was an easy decision to use the classification system developed by the International Cactaceae Systemat-ics Group, formerly the Cactaceae Working Party of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study, of which I have been a member since its inception in 1984. This is essentially the same system used by David Hunt (1992,1999a) in compiling both editions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora's cites Cactaceae Checklist, and it is the basis for his planned lexicon of the cactus family. It was also used in Hunt's treatment of cacti in The European Garden Flora of 1989 and in Wilhelm Barthlott and Hunt's account in The Families and Genera of Flowering Plants of 1993. The International Cactaceae Systematics Group continues its deliberations, however, and many of the resulting changes have been incorporated in The Cactus Family.
Plants are described alphabetically in The Cactus Family, an arrangement I hope will make the book a handy reference. Many of the cacti mentioned in Chapters 1-5 are illustrated beginning on page 105, in addition to the illustrations in Chapters 1-5 themselves. Indexes of scientific and common names have been provided to facilitate access to the information presented here. The relationships of cacti are discussed in Chapter 5. The distinctive morphology of cacti, described in Chapter 1, makes it impossible to avoid using technical terms when describing cacti so a Glossary is included.
The Cactus Family is but one further step in our efforts to understand cacti better, a task that will never be completed. Its purpose is simple: to describe and illustrate the family, its uses, and the diversity of genera and species. No book on cacti will satisfy all readers but I hope that this volume, with its many illustrations, will reward those who wish to know more about a remarkable family of plants.
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