Addendum 8. A letter of disquiet to the Haworthia Society.


The Chairperson
Haworthia Society
79 Osborne Road,
S11 9BA

Att.: Mrs Dorothy Minors.

Dear Mrs Minors,

Thank you for your very kind and considered reply to my letter of 22scd Sept.  My biggest regret is that I cannot put the names and faces together of all those real people that I met, and still meet, in my dealings with Haworthia.

I hope you have read the article I wrote which appeared in Asklepios recently.  Science is actually at a bit of a crossroads and this partly accounts for my own desperation and concern for what is true.  Science rests on classification.  Its fundamental weakness is its classification of creation into “conscious” and “unconscious”, and it deals only with the latter.  Science and materialism have become inseparable and falsely so.  Knowledge cannot be based on such a basic and false hypothesis that creation is a mindless chance event.  There is powerful evidence of an alternative hypothesis in a vast library of books and everywhere in human history.  What we presume to be science is materialism and there are profound cracks in the foundation.

During the last two years since I wrote Haworthia Revisited, I have done some very intensive revisiting and have some extraordinary material.  My problem is now to find an editor who is sympathetic to the position I find myself in.  Neither Aloe nor Haworthiad provide an environment in which I feel that I can write with diffidence and reservation; and that the audience is adequately and correctly informed to digest and judge what I have to say.  So it becomes pointless to say anything at all, and I am faced with the same problem that G G Smith ended up with i.e. invalidation.

My book has now been published and apparently it is an occupational hazard and fact that an author at this stage is left feeling violated and tarnished.  My publishers are perhaps unaware of this phenomenon in their professional field and have taken no pains to spare me.  Ignorance is thus evident in professionalism.  In the environment of recent publications and communications with your Haworthiad Editor, which are empowered with the same prejudice and misconstrual that characterises the literature on Haworthia, you may know that I feel doubly so.

Regarding the paper in Haworthiad which I criticised, I think your journal should consider publishing the following comment – and perhaps publish an apology for the misinformation which Haworthiad all too often carries.  Perhaps you could be brave enough to make this whole letter known to your membership – now or at some time in the future when I may be history.


“I really am further perplexed at the two articles which appeared recently in Haworthiad (Holloway 13:59, and Breuer 13:88, 1999).  In the first we have a very lucid and coherent account.  It promises an explanation of how cytology is likely to be useful in “evolutionary and phytogeographical studies”.  The second is in stark contrast and does not meet a second promise by Holloway that (proper) “consideration” will be given by Breuer to the actual or possible role of cytology in the taxonomy of Haworthia.

This second article does not deal adequately with the literature at all, despite again citing admirably so much of it.  The very curious quote from Rowley 1985 is provocative.  Rowley’s enthusiasm for polyploidy dates from his own work published in 1951 and 1954 (thirty years previously) and long since eclipsed or debunked with promise unfulfilled.  It was already so when Rowley made his comment, and Breuer ignored my 1986 response.  The probable role of polyploidy in Haworthia taxonomy was summed up by Brandham in 1981.  It is sufficient to say he reported that most of the polyploidy in Haworthia is evident in the two species H. venosa and H. coarctata.  The explanation by Breuer that polyploidy may have developed in the former species as an adaptation to growth conditions is a specious statement among others.  Even Motohashi et al did not hazard a guess in this regard.  Breuer has neglected to say virtually anything about any other aspect of chromosome morphology.  This needs to be dealt with because Breuer, in his closing paragraph, quotes Dr Vosa in respect of allocyclic constrictions.  This quotation can only be out of context, or Breuer has understood neither cytology, the literature nor what Dr Vosa might have said in private communication or in publication.

Firstly, Brandham (Kew Bull. 25:381, 1971) purported to explain ‘polyploidy and karyotype variation’ in the (then) Liliaceae.  He did not do so.  This is very important for three reasons.  One is simply because science as it is practised, is wrongly construed by mankind as a certain and sure route to knowledge at levels of consciousness which it tacitly denies.  The second because (as I discovered to my chagrin after the Vosa & Bayer publications of 1981 and 1986, cited but otherwise ignored by Breuer) Brandham’s work is used by Dr Vosa (with Bayer, 1981 & 1986 and later with Bennet, 1990) on the basis of the title, for the oft repeated “the karyotype of this species is well within the range of variation found within the genus/subgenus”.  The third reason is this.  As far as I am aware, no one knows just what the karyotype variation in Haworthia, or even the Liliaceae, in fact is.  Breuer does not even consider this possibility.  It is only in H. reinwardtii and H. coarctata, where the morphology of the chromosomes is more variable and confusing than that of even the grown whole plants, that we have any idea of what cytology might do for the practical classification of Haworthia ie. nothing.  I do not know from Brandham’s paper if one could separate even the genera of the Liliaceae on the basis of the chromosome morphology.  Breuer was surely required to establish if a karyotype could be described and defined for a taxon of any kind.  This is although the purpose of his paper is evident only from Holloway’s promise, from the bizarre quote from Rowley, and for the statement “Beyond taxonomy, chromosome studies may have relevance..”.

Brandham clearly stated his view about heterochromatic phenomena in the chromosomes of the Liliaceae, expressing his feeling “that they might be due to coiling and that they have little significance in the structure of the karyotype”.  This aspect of the coiling of the chromosome pairs during contraction is barely noted by Holloway.  It is significant because if two strands of material are coiled about one another, it is perfectly obvious that in outline the paired strand will show (allocyclic) constrictions.  So Brandham is possibly correct and it is grossly improbable that an artefact of this kind – if this is what the constrictions really are – can have any functional value.

(Note- There seems to have been a problem in 1971 from separating the phenomena of heterochromatin from allocyclic phenomena.  See Vosa & Bennet dealing with Gasteria, Caryologia 43:235, 1990, and my unpublished analysis of that work).

Thirdly, that work of Vosa and Bennet.  Breuer does not cite this paper but it is self-evident, as well as from the literature that he does cite, that this is a serious ommission.  A glance at this paper will show that the value of allocyclic constrictions, apart from the above considerations, is likely to be absolutely zero.  I say a glance because it is already evident elsewhere that this would be the case.  A detailed analysis (which I have done, and a copy of which is with your Haworthiad editor) will show that Dr Vosa would be absolutely clutching at the frailest of straws if he really suggested that “AC”s could have any role whatsoever in taxonomic decision-making in Haworthia, as Breuer uncritically claims that he did.

I would like to repeat what I have said many times.  The problem in Haworthia is that of continuity of variation and this will remain so at any level.  My classification takes this fully into account.  My classification serves its fundamental purpose – we now have a very sound classification based on a definition and a physical record tested over a period of 37 years; and thus a framework for testable hypotheses.  Such a classification and framework is a sine qua non for any scientific work.  Vosa and Bennet’s paper is a classic example of the a priori requirement of a classification on which science can proceed.  It is unfortunate that they appear to have been unaware of the fact, but they are by no means alone.  As I pointed out in an article in Asklepios (77:3, 1999), the organisation of scepticism by the initiated is difficult enough.  For the uninitiated and readers misled by authors and editors, the problem is compounded.  A fog of confusion is generated in which it becomes impossible to communicate.  I find my classification and my attitudes being questioned and criticised by persons who themselves are so confused that there is little hope that they will enlighten anyone.  They patently do not have the adequatio for properly organising their own scepticism nor for helping others to do so.  It is hurtful and unfair.”  Put more bluntly, Breuer’s analysis, if acceptable, is a gross indictment of the cytological literature and the authors he cites.


With my very sincere regard