Published: 14 August 2013
Book Review: Genus Cyclamen
The recently published “Genus Cyclamen in Science, Cultivation, Art and Culture” by Brian Mathew is a weighty publication in every sense.

With 570 pages this beautifully produced book is devoted to a genus of plants with only twenty three species native to parts of Europe, Western Asia and parts of North Africa. There are of course hundreds of cultivars produced by breeders around the world. However, many people will recognise them only as the brightly coloured pot plants seen at Christmas time.

The wealth of information and amount detail to be found in the book is extraordinary, from the taxonomic descriptions and images , their propagation complete with technical and practical information on  breeding and cultivation programs from around the world plus a comprehensive history up to the present day.

With so many variations of growth habits, foliage patterns and flowering periods cyclamen are popular with breeders, commercial growers, specialist enthusiasts and amateur gardeners. The Author, Brian Mathew has written this book with reference to all these groups and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, having also been a plant taxonomist there, he has edited and published many specialist plant based publications and was awarded an MBE plus the highest honour in British horticulture, the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour. Members of the Cyclamen Society of which Brian has close links with are also key contributors to this book.

Capture the mood

Many of the photographs throughout the book were taken by Brian, members of the Cyclamen Society or associates from around the world and clearly illustrate the enormous diversity found not only in the plants but also the locations and conditions that they grow and establish in. Many images were taken on location during plant field trips so expertly capture the mood of the places visited.

There are also some specially commissioned botanical paintings by Christabel King and Pandora Sellars that show stunning detail of the different species.

Chapter six contains many historical illustrations and botanical paintings from old herbals and reference books that help place the plants in the botanical time line. Chapter eight brings these plants into ‘popular culture’ with many illustrations of cyclamen on postage stamps, ceramics and glassware and even a Royal Navy Ship named HMS Cyclamen M674.

Final Thoughts

This book gives a fascinating insight into this wonderful plant genus, it is well worth the investment and acts as a reminder that Cyclamen are not just for Christmas, they should be enjoyed all year round.

Title :            Genus Cyclamen in Science, Cultivation, Art and Culture
Editor :         Brian Mathew
Publisher:     Kew Publishing [in association with The Cyclamen Society]
ISBN :          978 – 1 – 84246 – 472 – 4
Price :          £90.00

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Reported by Chris Allen  

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