White Beech, The Rainforest Years

White-BeechGermaine Greer

Bloomsbury, £25.00

Germaine Greer is no stranger to surviving in the interior of Australia. In this book she takes the reader through a variety of outback habitats, where she eventually found a suitable place to sink all of her spare cash into a plot to conserve tropical nature.

The place she chose was at Cave Creek, a 60ha site on the Queensland and New South Wales border. The area still had remnants of flora from Gondwana (the more southerly of the two ancient supercontinents), and the white beech – hence the title of the book. Greer (and her sister Jane) have a good working knowledge of the local flora, and she unravels the botanical nomenclature that is dogged by name changes, both scientific, Australian and aboriginal. She gives short shrift to the huge number of male botanists who have tried to classify the botany in her chapter on "Bloody Botanists".

Ecologists will like this book for the incredible accounts of how introduced species have overrun the logged-out rainforests, sadly a circumtropical occurrence. Greer's efforts to pull out the invaders with bulldozers and encourage endemics back are worthy. She has a keen eye for nature and presents the reader with an insight into rainforest flora and fauna in a part of the world that is rarely described. She hits the popular mark between an interesting travelogue and a scientific discourse, and she comes over as a passionate conservationist, in her own inimitable style, and a profound supporter of wildlife habitats. The book has an excellent index and references, but no photographs.

John Feltwell