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M. Newman, S. Ketphanh, B. Svengsuksa, P. Thomas, K. Sengdala, V. Lamxay, & K. Armstrong. A Checklist ofVascular Plants of Lao PDR. Pp. vi + 394. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. ISBN 978-1-906129-04-0 (softback).

The Flora of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), is one of the most poorly known in Asia, but still retains over 40% primary vegetation. This new checklist helps to fill a large gap in our knowledge of the region. This checklist was created by a team led by Mark Newman at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and three Lao PDR partners as part of a Darwin Initiative grant to build capacity in Lao PDR.

The checklist starts with an introduction to the project in both English and Lao, and highlights the lack of understanding of botanical research in Lao PDR including collecting density figures showing Lao PDR as the most poorly collected country in Indochina. In addition, a brief explanation of the checklist format and a table of literature sources and references used for checking the names, are given. Although informative, the introduction concentrates on taxonomic information, but as Lao PDR is not well known, some information on the biodiversity of the country, especially the vegetation types and conservation problems, would have been very useful.

Several data sources were used to compile the checklist including a database of previously published accounts (e.g., Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam), 9500 herbarium specimens housed in herbaria at E, P and L, and additional literature records (e.g. accounts from the Flora of Thailand and Flora of China); a total of 4850 species of native plants are listed, with a table of introduced and cultivated species presented at the end of the book. However, the authors note the data set is incomplete and as more families, especially large ones such as Annonaceae and Gramineae are completed for Asian Floras, additional species will be added to the checklist. Families and genera arranged alphabetically within three main groups: spore-bearing plants, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Family limits follow traditional boundaries, e.g., theVerbenaceae and Labiatae are treated separately instead of an enlarged Lamiaceae. Many of the taxa have a specimen citation, however it was not clear as to the source of accepted names without specimens, though I assume these were literature records but this is not explicit in the Introduction. The comprehensive listing of accepted names together with their synonyms is very impressive and will provides a practical basis for future study of the Lao flora. The listing of so many synonyms is particularly useful as many botanical works in the region are still using outdated taxonomies.

The layout is easy to read and easy to use, and the book is the perfect size for taking in the field or using in the herbarium and is highly recommended to anyone working on the floras of Indochina, South-East Asia and China. The printed checklist will be extremely useful to botanists, as well as ecologists and other biodiversity workers, interested not only in the flora of Lao PDR but the surrounding nations, and will hopefully spur on future collaboration, especially capacity building, within Lao PDR. The production of the printed checklist has not signalled the end of the project as an electronic searchable version is currently in development by the Edinburgh team with many new determinations together with the addition of information for each species in Lao PDR.

Copies of the checklist are being distributed by RBG Edinburgh, but it is also available online in pdf format at:

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