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ASBS Newsletter – Book Review

EUCLID - Eucalypts of south-eastern Australia

Written by: M.I.H. Brooker, J.R. Connors, A.V. Slee

(From ASBS Newsletter Number 98, March 1999)

CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
Price AUS$120, plus AUS$8 for postage and handling.

Identification of large genera, such as Eucalyptus, has never been easy except for those with extensive field and systematic knowledge of the group. Brooker, Connors and Slee have produced a multiple-entry computer key for 310 species of eucalypts that are native to south-eastern Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the south-eastern part of South Australia). The identification package consists of a CD-Rom and a brief user guide by Thiele.

Installation of the LucID software is extremely simple and rapid, guided by clear instructions with the CD-Rom. The image and text files remain on the CD-Rom and are required during any session of EUCLID. All other files are loaded to the PC's hard drive.

EUCLID is very graphical with the extensive use of readily identifiable icons throughout. The key is presented as four windows. These four windows display: the Characters Available to describe the plant specimen; the Character States Chosen to describe the material; Taxa Remaining lists the names of the eucalypts that agree with your selection of descriptive characters; and Taxa Discarded lists all those that do not agree with the descriptive characters selected by the user. Most of the characters in the Characters Available list consist of more than one character state. The key follows the standard LucID format. A character can be selected by the left-mouse 'click' either on the name (to display its states as text) or on the 'I' icon (to display an image of the state). The character state can be selected from either the text list or the graphical one. The progressive selection of characters discards taxa that do not agree with the description built-up by this character selection. Since precise, albeit simple, instructions are provided on how to use the identification key, further comment is not provided here. The brief introduction to important features of eucalypts is excellent. The EUCLID tutorial would help anyone not sure of how the key works.

All taxa have protologue information, synonymy, a brief description and notes. Each taxon is beautifully illustrated with images of the habit, leaves and leaf venation, often juvenile leaves, buds, fruits, and distribution map. EUCLID has more than 2000 colour images.

Although I have only tested the key on a small number of plants, I found it effortless to reduce the number of possible taxa to less than ten. Occasional miscoding leads to errors in identifications that will need to be rectified in future editions. Whether or not CSIRO Publishing's aggressive commercialisation of this product (at AUS$120) is in the best interest of educating the broader community in the diversity of this important Australian genus is questionable. However, this is an excellent example of an interactive key that is elegantly presented in a user-friendly manner. I congratulate the authors for their significant contribution to identification aids for professional botanists, natural resource managers and the interested public.

Technical Requirements:
IBM or compatible 486 DX or better
SVGA monitor - at least 640 x 480 pixel screen resolution
256 colour screen display or better
At least 5 MB of free hard-disk space
8 MB Ram
Windows 3.1 or better (Windows 95)

Reviewer: Barry J. Conn