Enigma 2. The real enigma in Haworthia.

Harry Mays kindly explained that I have been not very well balanced since too much time at computing, and this is perhaps one reason for the aggressive note in my writing which offends many readers.  During the last few years Kobus Venter has been a great friend and tried to nurse me through a tough time.  I was avoiding even seeing Haworthiad outside of those surreptitious loans from Kobus.  I wanted to see my manuscript published and then get out altogether because the mental stimulation of working with Haworthia is excessive.  I know that for some reason that readers are not really cogniscent of the import of what is written and all I have been doing is undermining my own credibility by attempting to defend myself.  As the book drags on and in consequence of a really enjoyable visit to the USA thanks to their Succulent Society, I began to be more positive.  So much so that I asked for Haworthiad to be addressed to me again.  I expected an anticipated article by Metzing and Breuer to maybe give me some problems because I had already advised Harry Mays not to publish a poor manuscript which Ingo Breuer had submitted on the arachnoidea/herbacea enigma.  Harry informed me that a revised version was on its way which, he said they had asked not to be released prior to publication.  I assumed from Harry’s letter that Metzing would be senior author.  Assessing Breuer’s capabilities from the Taxon article for which Metzing was the senior author, I was anticipating something really solid and meaningful but dreading a paper driving me into a desperate mode.  I honestly and truly did not anticipate that a paper on the so-called enigma could do anything but go back to a 1986 paper of mine where I pointed out that there was a simple problem of application.  There was no enigma at all.  Another problem for me has been the fact that I have given a copy of the manuscript of my book to Breuer.  I did it in trusting and helpful mode thinking that the book would appear before Breuer’s.  I did it like this thinking I could pre-empt the problems that arose and persisted for so long because of the difference between Scott’s book and my own.

The Haworthiad Vol 12.3 arrived with the article expected, but authored by a Wolfgang Borgmann and Breuer.  I had two or more times apologised to Haworthiad for what was being reported as negative comment about my attitude.  So I was determined to hold myself in check and react with more decorum and restraint.  I initially thought I could just glance over the paper and pass it as acceptable – that it could not possibly be bad after what had gone before and with the comments I had offered to Breuer.

Being rather pressed for time I looked briefly at the Borgman/Breuer article and then had to rub my eyes and look again.  A sentence had leapt out at me from nowhere to hit me like a ton of bricks.  On page 84, left column Para 2.  It reads of H. herbacea  “He (Bayer) suggested 1976 ..that the type variety is that found in the Richtersveld and dryer areas southwards to the eastern little karoo.”  Now this did not sound to me like my language style at all, and besides that is geographic mis-statement.  Looking in my 1976 Handbook I find that I use the less formal and less suggestive word ‘typical’, but then I also find that the sentence refers to H. arachnoidea and not to herbacea. ‘Damn, there are many citations and a long literature list.  Have I got to check them all?’.  Considerably worse is to come and I spot checked here and there.  This was my Point no. 1.

The article was not saying anything new about a phantom enigma which I did not think existed anyway.  But as I went on the absurdities and inaccuracies grew apace.  I thought the paper had a very poor title to start with and that the preliminary remarks were misleading.  But the paper is as long and tortuous as the warning by the authors indicates.  I wrote as my thoughts developed from some random references to the article.  I completed a brief review and could just not believe that I was not missing something.  That maybe these two were in fact right and I was wrong.  I was practically at my wits end trying to understand how these authors could claim lack of typification as the cause of an enigma of the magnitude they were now attempting to solve.

My review went as follows:-

2.  (..as for Enigma 1.. )…

… 6. … Hopefully they will one day acknowledge a more meaningful epitype.  I seem to remember it being said to me that a type ensures the application of a name to a specimen.  A name is not based on a plant population as Borgmann and Breuer state on p86.  The name is verified by reference to a specimen.  It is a limitation of the herbarium system that it cannot accomodate the specimens which would be needed to typify a population.  At the Cape herbaria, they struggle to accomodate representation of just the 1/4 degree grid geographic record of distribution.  One cannot even consider storage to cover variation over those ranges.  Furthermore, few species in the broader plant world are defineable in terms of ‘populations’ in the discrete way that Haworthias are.  The authors cite the 1958 version of the code and imply that the code makes some statement about ‘populations’.  The recent edition of the code is dated 1994 and I know that it sensibly makes some very useful provisions. … (..continuing as for Enigma 1.. )…

…   I did suggest to Breuer, who seems to struggle with the english language, that he should refer his writing to someone for authoritative comment.  This particular paper would have benefited enormously from a proper title, proper direction to the thrust of the discussion, good structured argument and accuracy.  I find it odd that they asked the editor, not to release it for prior scrutiny.  At least that is what the editor initially said to me when it was pending.  In a more recent letter he says he knows I had seen it.  Either the editor has forgotten that he sent me a Breuer written, much shorter version of the article, or the authors have misled him into believing I had already seen this new manuscript they had now co-authored.  Someone has lied either intentionally or inadvertently.  I am reasonably justified in my feeling that any typification where these authors are involved, is unlikely to be authoritative.  Therefore in terms of the code or otherwise, I do not feel obliged to follow it.  Juristics (their word) somehow or other appeals to some, and recourse to the ‘law’ justifies everything as if there can be no perversion under its aegis.  My feeling is that where there is sincere, truthful and honest effort there is no need for ‘law’ (see setata above).  I do however, accept the Taxon article on typification where I can, and respect the integrity and intent of the co-author.

Ellison is an American writer of some stature and he is reputed to have said that everyone is entitled to an opinion BUT it must be an informed opinion – get educated is his call.  A long literature list does not imply a good insight and understanding of it, and an article itself does not manufacture its own authority and credibility.  I said somewhere that if I hear again that classification is simply a matter of opinion that I would spit.  Thoughts around that topic were the gist of my talks during a recent visit to the USA as a guest of their society branches.  A condensation will appear in ‘Desert Breeze’ (Tuczon) and the Editor of Haworthiad has a manuscript expressing its same sentiments.  There is purpose and predictiveness in some of my publications which these two authors should dig out before they come to be haunted by them.  One comfort the article provides, is the firm assurance that there is going to be enough script to keep a dozen editors happy for decades.


At this stage I regarded my comment as reasonably complete and I telephoned Kobus to ask what his reaction to the latest Haworthiad was.  He did not seem to be disturbed in anyway, while I on the otherhand had been contemplating revising my introduction with sentiments like “I feel absolutely helpless and friendless in the face of this plain balderdash.  In the way they write, I absolutely resent the implication that they have any insight into or understanding at all of anything I have written.  My opinion is that what they have done with the literature is an absolute and disgraceful assault on intellectual integrity and a travesty of truthfulness……”.

I am not an intellectual, I feel uncomfortable at being referred to as a scientist despite being given achievement awards even in my last job as a range managment ecologist.  This is why I write in Haworthiad, Aloe etc. and do not attempt to scale the academic heights of Taxon, Journal of SA Botany and so forth.

After analysing Borgmann and Breuer, I had really begun to doubt my sanity and I tried a diagram as follows where for each author a source (the type T) is linked to a name (N) which the author accepts and then how the author applies that name (A) in the sense of Bayer 1976, 1982.

This is what one gets:-


Bayer Borg/Breuer
T Mackrill Salm D Mackrill/Cogmanskloof
N Setata Setata Setata
A Arachnoidea Arachnoidea Arachnoidea
T T27 T27 T27
N Arachnoidea Arachnoidea Arachnoidea
A Herbacea Arachnoidea Arachnoidea
T T131 T131 T131
N Herbacea Herbacea Herbacea
A Herbacea Herbacea Herbacea

(In his earlier papers, Scott maintained that he could find no application for the epithet ‘herbacea‘ the epithet, whereas in his book it appears as a synonym of his arachnoidea.)

It is clear from the discussion here and in Borgman and Breuer that Mackrill, Salm Dyck and Cogmanskloof are effectively the same, as the latter authors specifically say that they took the Cogmanskloof plants to match Mackrill.  So surely it is obvious that nothing in the typification situation is different across the table – all that differs is the application.  How can typification possibly have changed anything in this table?  And I pointed out that Scott had not cited my use of the name herbacea under the synonymy of his arachnoidea as he should have done.  That is the real source of the confusion.

Now the most appalling and unbelievable blunder revealed itself.  I was still trying to follow the tortuous path of the article when on p84 I read.. “Scott chose a herbarium specimen from Laingsburg as representative of this species”.  They mean H. arachnoidea, although the reader can be excused for thinking they might in fact be referring to setata in the tortuous context of the paragraph.  I knew that Scott had typified arachnoidea, had cited selected specimens, and said nothing at all about a representative specimen.  The specimen from Laingsburg which Borgman and Breuer attribute to Scott is most unfortunately for them, but unquestionably, the one Scott chose to represent his  H. translucens (an enigma in its own right if there are enigmas of this kind at all).  It is not the formal typification required by the code for Scott’s action, but it is unambiguously the impression Borgmann and Breuer would have to imbibe if that ‘species’ was under consideration.  They have absolutely confounded themselves by an appallingly inaccurate reference.  I cannot credit that a mistake of this order has been made.  I know that Scott’s translucence is synonomous with his setata and thus my arachnoidea, but there is no indication that Borgman and Breuer do.  Their text does not even allow doubt about the matter.  I can concede that maybe I am nit-picking about Point 1 above which is a fairly easy mistake to make.  But this?  How has it happened?  Scott wrote two different articles on the typification of H. arachnoidea and it is also cited clearly in his book.  Borgman and Breuer have made a gaffe here which vindicates every negative statement I have been forced to make since 1986.  The statements I have made above are every bit as true as I believed when I wrote them.  The mistake I might have made is to have taken the article as seriously as I did and doubt my own initial analysis of it.  The error has its roots outside even the broad scope of the paper, and thunderously within the scope of the very problem they are claiming derives from typification and which they are ‘attempting’ to resolve.  At this point my sanity is restored but I have to scratch around for something to say.  What will my insulted friend Colin Walker have to say about this in relation to the typification these people have done?   What can I say as an apology to him in the face of this?  What will he say to me?  Who are these peoples mentors who have misled them so?  Am I in this class and category of intellect?  Are these the judges of my performance?  Can this article really, truly, honestly be a solution to anything other than the problem of identifying writers who are confused?.  A book is about to be published (The world of Haworthias by Breuer in several volumes), of which the simple foreword and introduction give me problems.  It is being acclaimed before it is off the press – offered by a society professing presumably to promote the interests of the genus.  Bruyns in Kew Magazine 4.148 (1986) said of Scott’s book.. ” a retrogressive step of 40-50 years in Haworthia taxonomy”.  I have suggested elsewhere that there has been no step forward yet from that 1985 publication and this article proves the point.  What will their book do?


After that last discovery of mine I decided that there was absolutely no way that I would go any further with reading and commenting on an article which fulfils every dismal prediction I have been forced to make since my articles of 1986.  This same low level of intellectual debate has presented itself in just about every publication I have seen from Haworthia study group of New South Wales publications to Taxon.  If Taxon has failed us, is there even any sense in suggesting that taxonomy should be confined to the academic environment?  Are Borgmann and Breuer not already operating there?  Is my humourous note on Hawtoxins a reality?  Do these readers who deride my anger not sympathise in even small measure at the forceful sentiments that I am driven to express in the defence of truth and sound information, and not in the defence of Bruce and fortune and fame?  Do they tolerate this incredible untruth and disorder in their own minds?  Is it even important in the context of classification as a process intended to order things.  Are wild claims about solving enigmas but which are themselves grossly enigmatic, saying anything to them?

While I was writing comment I was also mulling over its audience.  I have said in an article in the CSSA Jl. that I was not going to write again.  So I thought I would just send this document as it is now to editors, to friends, to interested parties like herbarium curators and perhaps just put it into cyberspace somehow for someone one day to know what Haworthia literature is all about.  Ordinarily I would re-check the many statements I make of which I am not absolutely sure.  In this particular case I am going to leave the onus on what I must consider to be two charlatans, that cannot be taken seriously.  I want to state most emphatically that any typifications which are in my manuscript and which are discordant with Metzing and Breuer are justified on the basis of the ineptitude which I see projected into and emanating from that work.  My respect for the senior author and the code is maintained, but nothin else remains.  That my own credibility has to suffer in parrying this level of communication is the pain that drives me to do what G.G. Smith did – concede defeat and crawl away to die.