If you have ever longed to venture to remote corners of the world and wander inside their forests of exotic conifers, this book by Zsolt Debreczy and István Rácz will show you what you can look forward to. Depending on your mood and personality, it might further spur you to fulfill your longing or it might let you relax, knowing that traveling these pages is akin to being there. This work is part of the authors' dream of documenting all of the temperate trees in the world, not only the conifers, in a grand Dendrological Atlas that is gradually nearing completion.
The two volumes you hold in your hands are not just a way station along the road to that overarching vision, however, but constitute a separate work in their own right, one that expands the climatic range of the Atlas to include conifers of subtropical (and some tropical) realms as well as the boreal and temperate species originally included in their mandate. This expansion was already manifest in their single volume Fenyők a Föld körül, the immediate predecessor to this work published in the millennial year 2000 in Magyar and thus not readily accessible to a worldwide audience.
Now that audience is reached in this new English language version that is much more than just a translation of their earlier effort but a great expansion of it as well, in terms of format, species and subspecies covered, the addition of range maps for all included taxa, discussion of taxonomy, geography, and ecology, and pictures, pictures, pictures, more than twice as many as in Fenyők, with multiple images in glorious color on virtually every page. The authors have scoured the globe to take these pictures and make their personal observations in the field of all the included species, and we are all richer for their efforts, for, in these two volumes, they have brought together all their decades of accumulated experience with conifers in their natural habitats. Since these habitats are shrinking by the day, through direct exploitation and land conversion, further threatening many rare species in their natural environments, it is particularly timely to have before us so many ecological observations.
Even though almost all of these conifers are in cultivation somewhere and each is represented by dried specimens in the world's herbarium collections so that we can always obtain basic taxonomic and morphological facts about them, these circumstances cannot tell us about how they live in nature, the very information that is vanishing in a constantly developing world but that is presented here in a concise distillation of all the experience garnered during so many arduous, but obviously rewarding, expeditions.