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Cover image from Plants of Somaliland

New Release Raises International Profile of BRIT Press with Exploration of Plants of Somaliland

Cover of Introduction to the Plants of Central Somaliland

The publishing arm of the Garden’s research organization, BRIT Press, recently introduced a new guide to the plants of Somaliland. The 148-page text is the first of its kind for this region of east Africa and an opportunity for the Press to share its commitment to the highest quality scientific publishing with an international audience.

Introduction to Plants in Central Somaliland, Second Edition (Hordhac ku saabsan dhirta ka baxda badhtamaha Soomaalilaand) by Ahmed Ibrahim Awale, Faisal Jama Gelle and Helen Pickering, is a guide for non-specialists to the native and naturalized plants of the region, complete with photographs and bilingual text.

Somaliland, a region approximately the size of Oklahoma, is an independently governed territory within Somalia; while the government declared independence in 1991, it remains unrecognized by the United Nations. Nevertheless, the territory has a relatively stable democracy, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and has attracted foreign investment. The climate is arid to semi-arid; in fact, it bears some similarity to Central and West Texas, although on average Somaliland is about five degrees hotter.

A comparable climate means many of the plants of Somaliland will be recognizable to Texas readers. “They have aloes, agaves, mesquite–lots of plants that you would recognize on the family level,” says BRIT Press Director Barney Lipscomb. “It’s as you get down to the species level that you start to see differences.”

For example, the lovely purple Ipomoea cicatricosa, found from Ethiopia to Kenya, is cousin to Ipomoea purpurea, the common morning glory found in many Texas gardens and native to Mexico and Central America.

Ipomoea cicatricosa from Plants of Somaliland
Ipomoea cicatricosa, a plant endemic to Somaliland, is a close cousin of the common morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) familiar to many Texans.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is that it is fully bilingual, with text in both English and Somali. The first edition of this book, published by another press, was issued as two volumes, one in English and one in Somali. “This really limited the book’s use, so we suggested combining the text,” says Lipscomb. This also created a challenge for Lipscomb as editor. “I speak not one word of Somali,” he says. “Fortunately, one of the co-authors, a native Somali speaker, was able to handle all of the editing.”

Lipscomb expects the audience for the book will include Somaliland residents interested in the value of their native plants as well as former residents now living abroad and people working for the many aid organizations in the territory, especially environmental groups.

Introduction to Plants in Central Somaliland is the first BRIT Press title on plants from Africa, although a 2001 book focused on the wildflowers of the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. Nevertheless, the book will serve to raise the international profile of the Press. “People like the way we do business,” says Lipscomb. “We make the process very personal and all about them and their project, and they appreciate our years of publishing botanical science texts.”

Introduction to Plants in Central Somaliland is available for order or pickup from BRIT Press.

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