Those of you who are interested in knowing more about the plants in our local area might like to get hold of this new computer key. Written by Gwen Harden, Hugh Nicholson, Bill McDonald, Nan Nicholson, Terry Tame and John Williams, it was launched last month, and is available on a USB from http://rainforests.net.au, or http://www.rainforestpublishing.com.au. The cost, if ordered on the internet, is $80.00. My first thought was that the price is rather high, but it contains so very much more than could ever be fitted into a single book, that it is definitely worth it. It covers all the trees, shrub, climbers mistletoes, and treeferns that fit within the authors' rather broad definition of a rainforest plant. This includes plants of wet environments like Goomburra, Ravensbourne or the Bunya Mountains; dry rainforests such as those in Redwood Park or Highfields; and even the "scrub" plants to the west of Toowoomba. (There are no "sclerophyll" plants - gumtrees or wattles - in it).
"Keying out" plants can be quite difficult if you use a traditional key, but the great thing about this one is that you can enter anything you know about the plant. It begins with a list of all its 1139 plants. Type in one fact - that it has pink fruits of a certain size, for example - and all plants that don't fit this description disappear from the list. Type in the geographical area, and suddenly you find yourself with quite a short list that makes it easy to find your plant. Add a few other facts, such as the length of the leaves, and you may have identified your plant already, and can look at its description and photos. Or if there are still a few to choose from, you can look at the photos of each of the plants left in the list, which might give you the bit of extra help you need to find "your" plant. Because it's a computer key, it has included lots more photos of each plant than books can afford to publish - 1200 of them altogether, with ten or a dozen of every plant, so you get a really good idea of what each plant looks like. Another use for the program is simply to look up any plant that you're curious about, in the list of names. Because you're given a full written description of each plant, an indication of where it's likely to grow, and photos of the whole plant as well as close-ups of the trunk, flowers, fruit, leaves, etc, you can start to feel you really know that plant. As a bonus, if you order it from Hugh and Nan Nicholson's "rainforestpublishing" site you get a free copy of Volume 1 of their rainforest book series. This is a really a fantastic resource, which I feel sure many of our members would like to own.
(Written by Trish Gardner)