Thoughts on Haworthia – Foreward and Introduction



M.B.BAYER (MSc.Agric.)


A philosophical dissertation.

Truth = N+(N+1):  Non-existent in the singularity of plant classification.  (By restricting itself to only that which can be quantified, measured and observed by the physical senses, science confines itself to a black hole from which scientists will never escape.. (see also Fritjhof Capra, The Turning Point, and other writers who seem to be free)… aspirant and practising plant taxonomists do not seem to class even as scientists.



Minus 1
Enigma   1. Another open letter.
Enigma   2. The real enigma in Haworthia.
Enigma   3. The haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea
Enigma   4. The haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Della Sea
Enigma   5. Cabbages and kings.
Enigma   6. A change of title – Predictiveness in science.
Enigma   7. ICBN vs. Larry Leach and Col.C.L. Scott.
Enigma   8. Does the ruling body of the ICBN know what it has done
Enigma   9. Ditto 8.
Enigma  10. Ditto 9.
Enigma  11. Titles of talks mutate.
Enigma  12. N+(N+1) As the title of a presentation.
Addendum 1. Haworthia – where do we go from here?
Addendum 2. Notes of talk – Omaha June 1988.
Addendum 3. Gist of talks – USA June 1988.
Addendum 4. A paper on Oxalis.
Addendum 5. A letter to a prospective taxonomist.
Addendum 6. A review of “The World of Haworthias. Vol.1”
Addendum 7. A manuscript for the Journal Asklepios.

Continue reading

Enigma N-1. The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea

(Having received a belated invitation to make a presentation at the I.O.S. Congress being held in Cape Town, I hurriedly faxed the following to the organiser..)

Fax to Craig Hilton-Taylor

Congress organiser.

Sorry I am late with this but I had a crisis in connection with this very topic and had to see that through first.  This is my abstract for the congress.  Please ring me if there is any doubt in your mind about its suitability for the programme.

The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea

M B Bayer

I get a perverse delight in the picture of Adolph Hitler the megalomaniac, whose CV resume is highlighted by his simple beginnings as a house painter, and my career ending as a paying house painter.

The talk will deal with the special nature of species in the subgenus Haworthia as it may relate to the quote  ‘the ship of many a taxonomist has been wrecked on the rocks of the Liliaceae’.  It will present a definition of a species which the author feels is totally adequate for taxonomy at any level.  A definition that is simple, intellectually unpretentious and meeting the needs of both layman and scientist, as indeed it has to do.  It is based on the authors extensive experience in recognising pattern in biological systems.

Enigma 1. Another open letter

A letter to the Editor of Haworthiad, Mr Harry Mays.


Dear Harry,

Thank you for the recent Haworthiad and your letter.

I have also just been asked to speak at the IOS congress (20 Min) so it will be nice to see you there.  No, you said Borgman and Breuer had asked for their manuscript not to be released prior to publication.  I have glanced at it now and initially thought it really may be quite good.   There were some critical comments which I was going to make thinking arrogantly perhaps that I could maybe help the authors to greater heights.  There did not seem to be anything new here and it looked if these two were promising to keep you in manuscript for the next millennium.

I did think you might not like to publish my comments but as I progressed I found myself getting more and more irritated and my writing more aggressive.  In the closing paragraph you will see that I say ‘Someone has lied’.  This was intentionally or otherwise, but it remains a lie.  Much as I appreciate the way you have accommodated my writing, the comment below does not seem suited to Haworthiad based on your support for Breuer and on the comments you convey to me from your readership.  I doubt if your readership would have any appreciation of the subtleties of the argument nor the revulsion I feel at this piece of work.  I am therefore contemplating a sort of private mailing list for this comment and possibly also launching it out into cyberspace as a loud thought.  I would like an early answer as I am contemplating simply giving it to the internet as my last last word.

Thank you for the WWW page.  Harry my time is very precious to me at the moment and I did write something for the special Haworthia issue of the CSSA Jl – influenced by Colin Walker’s letter.  I actually want to go and see the E. Cape complex later this year and feel really torn between my inner wish for ‘rest’ and the outer wish to ‘know’.  Time is wasted on endless refutation and takes me right away from wanting to write anything new.  Did you get my notes on Resende, Uitewaal and Smith – 30th June? :-

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Enigma 3. The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea

When a rabbit is pulled out of a hat during a stage show, it is not required to then give a learned discourse on the theory and practise of illusion.

This is the very strange position I find myself in.  If I ask myself why I am here I have to reply ‘I do not know, I did not intend coming,, but I am here because I knew I would be here.

Why I was not going to be here is because the only subject I could talk about, the one I would want to talk about, would be about a species definition in relation to the actual meaning of life.

I would talk about consciousness, the creative event, development of physical form, the distribution of phenomenon in space changing with time, the significance to the individual consciousness, and species evolution and definition.

Continue reading

Enigma 4. The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Della Sea

Obviously I have struggled a bit to make up this presentation.  Some of the struggle has produced some interesting ideas for which evidence is available separately.

The problem arises around the fact that I have two things to talk about.  The one is what I have the perceived authority to talk about – viz.

1.) Species definition as it is arrived at from my experience with Haworthia and biological systems in general, which has implications for Asphodelaceae and Aloideae.  This is what I see as the organisers requirement from me and hence I feel they give me credibility.

2.) Nomenclature and taxonomy as it has affected me and hence the classification required for 1 above.  Which is what I also have the apparent authority for, but not the perceived credibility. (It is generally stated that there is confusion regarding the nomenclature and classification of Haworthia).

Continue reading

Enigma 5. Cabbages and kings

I try again

I do not know how Galileo and Copernicus were really treated in the Dark Ages or of the persecution they were subjected to for their beliefs.  But I know how they suffered.  I feel exactly the same fear in trying to explain to any single person never mind a group (and never mind a group of scientists), how my belief system, based on all my life’s experience and knowledge, influences me as a scientist.  Why, in explaining how I try to understand what a Haworthia species is and arrive at a classification, cannot I say that the simple creative event which scientists hypothesise is fundamental to the problem.

The reason for my fear is that I am hounded by religion on the one hand and by orthodoxy of science on the other.  These two aspects are embodied in my two closest friends.  As a free thinker I feel terrorised by society to a point where he cannot remotely feel allowed to say why my system of classification gets what little recognition that it does.

What I have here before me is the masterpiece, the piece de resistance of my entire life, the summum bonum of efforts to be a scientist and a writer.  It is all these prepared talks of mine reduced to a single paragraph:-

You have repeatedly invalidated me as a science writer and denied me the role of a taxonomist on your insistence that classification and taxonomy is a matter of opinion and therefore an art form and not science.  You do so also through the binding power of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature which in effect says “The value of your scientific classification hypothesis is equivalent to saying that I am an artist commissioned to paint the same picture that some unknown artist is going to paint in the future.”

Continue reading

Enigma 6. A change of title – predictiveness in science.

I get nowhere.

I started my talks in a recent visit to the USA with an amusing aside from Stephen Hammer.  I had asked him what the advertised title of my talks would be.  He said it did not matter because the titles of talks tend to mutate.  This new title and my old one viz. “The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea” are however, one and the same through six different versions of this presentation.

John Rourke quoted to me  “The ship of many a taxonomist has been wrecked on the rocks of the Liliaceae”.  The thrust of my every presentation is that there is another sea which is incredibly and indescribably more turbulent and fraught with rocks, and shoals and perils of unbelievable magnitude.  This is the sea of human existence.  To quote some unknown philosopher “We are born in ignorance, we live in ignorance and we die in ignorance”.  The sea of human existence is a vast cradle of ignorance.

Continue reading

Enigma 7. ICBN vs Larry C. Leach and Col. C.L. Scott.

No progress.

The presentation is intended to show that trial by the international botanical community has sentenced these two innocent people to death because they are INNOCENT of witchcraft (NOT guilty – to show this is clear and unambiguous as the ICBN may require).  M.B. Bayer is exempted only because he drew attention to this likely result in the case of Col. Scott, but simply stood aside and watched Leach trying to exonerate himself, and did nothing.

Continue reading

Enigma 8. Does the ruling body of the ICBN know what it has done?

This presentation gives the answer to a rhetorical question asked as the title of a paper presented by Dr A. Cronquist (New York, 1988) to a conference of this august body:-

The question was ‘Do we know what we are doing?’
The answer is:-  ‘No.  Absolutely not.’  Because – To achieve nomenclatural stability, the strict implementation of the code requires a prophetic element beyond the reach of scientific prediction.  The code should be changed.

Continue reading

Enigma 9. Does the ruling body of the ICBN know what it has done?

The text for this version is the same as for Version 8 with the addition of the following text:-

Literature cited:- The literature is practically that in:-
1998 Borgmann and Breuer, 12.3(79).

Add: 1986 Bayer, British Cactus and Succulent Journal 4.8:45.
1997 Smith, Bothalia 27.1:27.

The actual words to which I wish you to refer are:-

‘In later years Larry spent ‘far too much’ time on nomenclatural disputes………  Convinced that the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature could be improved, a number of proposals for amendation of parts of the code were unsuccessfully submitted.’
1997 Williamson, Aloe 34.1&2:30.

The actual first quotation from the work I use is this:-

‘Towards the last years of his life, he became bogged down in what APPEARED to be insoluble taxonomic problems.  His personal interpretation of the code led him into dark waters and he devoted much valuable time, that could have been more used more productively, to prolonged, stubborn argument.’

Enigma 10. Does the ruling body of the ICBN know what it has done?

The text for this version is the same as for Version 9 with the addition of the following text:-

How ever real true professional do view and interpret the code, and the flexibility that it provides, this is not how it is seen and used by non-professional whether qualified academically or not.

Larry Leach was a perfectionist and hated being criticised rightly or wrongly for any mistake that he might have made – the code allows him to be criticised also for mistakes he did not make.  IS THAT FAIR?

Would he appreciate what these two friends of his who wrote his obituaries, have said there ?

I do not want this presentation on my behalf, but on behalf of these people whom I would like to see happy, alive or now gone.

Enigma 11. Titles of talks mutate – N+1

This presentation is to show that life is an everchanging mosaic (just like species), and if you are cast into the role of speaker at 2 weeks notice it may give you some problems.

The first title for my talk (i.e. Enigma N-1) was the “The Haworthiod rocks of the Liliaceae”.  This is based on what I thought my talk should be about, in terms of what the organisers would expect me to talk about, in terms of what the organisers would expect me to talk about.  It is what I might have talked about had I indicated my intention of attending the congress when it was mooted as far back as 1996.  I had no intention of being here, but by witchcraft or scientific prediction, I knew I would be.

Therefore I have a dilemma.  I have good reason not to give the talk expected of me and hence why I did not intend presenting one.  Therefore I have had to discover in my own mind, what are the pressures from within and without that bring me here.

I have come to know almost exactly what that pressure is through two weeks of blood, sweat and tears.  I accumulated some material for talks, which I think you as delegates should see, but I have already written or edited 10 versions of a presentation.

When I spoke recently in the USA, I was not sure what title I had submitted to the convention organisers at Omaha.  I asked Steven Hammer, and he said “Not to worry, the titles of talks tend to mutate”.  The title of my talk was given as “Haworthia – why controversy”.  I discovered in the 7 times I gave my talk, that it changed each time, but the title remained the same.  My talk about Haworthia and controversy could have been either the words of Steven’s advice, or my submitted title.  I discovered that both of them were equally relevant and apt.

In this case also I find I have given you a title for a talk and I would like to list other apt titles which I considered during preparation and after.  The following titles were considered on material available to me:-

1. Haworthia why controversy.
2. Astroloba corrugata – name game?

The following titles were a result of active preparation:-

1. Another open letter
2. The real enigma in Haworthia
3. The haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea
4. The haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Della Sea
5. Cabbages and Kings
6. Predictiveness in science
7. ICBN vs Larry C. Leach and Col. C.L. Scott
8. Does the ruling body of the ICBN know what it has done?
9. Do. plus cited literature
10. Do. plus cited literature and postscript
N + 1. Titles of talks mutate – N+1
N + 2. (The presentation as on 31st August – unwritten)

At this point I now know that I should not give my talk at all

My talk is that I have nothing to say.

I have realised that I can now write what I must say.

I know why the congress organisers have invited me – they are people I respect and admire – I cannot say no to them.


I feel that there is a distinct body of delegates who do not know who I am, why I am here nor what is expected of me by the organiser.  I respect every one of those delegates too, known or unknown to me.

So I have come here to say nothing….BUT..PLEASE


Enigma 12. N+(N+1) as the title of a presentation

In preparing for this talk in the short time allotted to me, I have tried to understand my own scientifically (intellectually) based prediction on why I am here, when I had no intention of being here.  In trying to write a presentation for you – out of my respect and liking for every single one of you – I have produced 11 (N) written versions.  In addition to this I have a presentation 12 (N+1).  In that final written version I will show that I have nothing to say, and that it may be pointles even saying it.  In reaching that point where I justify saying nothing, I see that I will never reach the end of N, and hence my title N+(N+1).

Continue reading

Addendum 1. Haworthia – Where do we go from here?

(Written January 1986)

Col. C.L. Scott’s revision of Haworthia has recently appeared and I have seen three reviews of this book.  Both David Hardy (Aloe 23:52, 1986) and Michael Kimberley (Excelsa 12:107, 1986) quote Dr L.E. Codd’s introductory remarks to the book on Haworthia being a ‘complex and baffling genus’.  Infinitely more baffling is that, notwithstanding all the many words already written about Haworthia, we still remain so confused by them.  I did write a reply to Gordon Rowley’s Review (British.Cact.Succ.J. 3:?,1985) published in that same journal (4:45, 1986).  There is also an article in Excelsa (12:91, 1986) in which I touched on some of the attitudes that can be presented, and also complained that it is now barely possible to write about these plants without suggesting that someone is unsound.  Certainly that is not my intention and neither do I enjoy the suggestion that I am.

Continue reading

Addendum 2. Notes of talk. Conference of the Mid-West Cactus and Succulent Society. Omaha June 1998.

I have not been very visible since 1983 and I need to try and explain why I am here.

It is by your invitation and at your expense, and frankly I wonder at my arrogance at assuming that I can meet the implications of this invitation.  I felt uncomfortable here (in USA) in 1981, especially at Albuquerque where my impression was that the audience wanted an entertainer and a performer.
I cannot fill that role.

Nevertheless, I am deeply conscious that I have some kind of debt and responsibility to you.  I am anxious to hold your respect and your affection – and to have some credibility when it comes to the real subject of my talk, hoping of course that it will impress itself upon your minds.

My role in Haworthia is this.  I grew up with J.R. Brown’s Succulents for the Amateur as my picture book.  I have been familiar with Haworthia since 1940 when I first started to grow them.  I tried to collect them seriously when I lived in Natal, but what I could obtain all looked very alike to me.  It is only when I landed up at the Karoo Botanic Garden that I began to understand the problem.

Continue reading

Addendum 3. Haworthia – an approximation of a series of seven presentations given during the course of a short visit to USA June 1998, beginning at Omaha, Nebraska.

The title of the talk(s) was given as:-
Haworthia – why controversy.

As I was not sure if this title appeared on the Congress programme, I asked Steven Hammer prior to my departure for the States what title was advertised for my talk.  His reply was that I should not worry as the titles for talks of this kind tend to mutate.  In relation to my jaundiced view of Haworthia literature, I thought that this itself would make an equally good title for the subject of the talk.

I have come to the USA on invitation and the reasons I accepted this invitation are manifold.  Primarily I feel a sense of responsibility and duty to the subject; secondly I feel a sense of obligation as my interest in Haworthia owes much to the USA for the role J.R. Brown played in stimulating my interest in the genus, and thirdly I felt I ought to dispel the discomfort of the culture shock I had experienced in the USA when I visited it in 1982.

Continue reading

Addendum 4. Salter’s revision of South African Oxalis (Oxalidaceae) and some new combinations from Herbertia 48 (1&2) – 1992

Department of Agricultural Development
Winter Rainfall Region, Elsenburg (RSA).

The genus Oxalis, as it occurs in South Africa, is discussed generally in relation to the revision by T.M. Salter (1944).  A brief account is given of Salter’s collecting activities, the distribution and variability of the species, and the problems of classification.  Some new combinations are made.  Particular attention is paid to the section Pardales Salter, and all the 11 species recognised by Salter (many described by him) are combined in one species, namely Oxalis pardalis Jacq.  Two species, Oxalis dentata Jacq. and Oxalis lateriflora Jacq., are reduced under O. livida Jacq.  Similarly Oxalis urbaniana Schltr. and Oxalis callimarginata Weintr. are reduced under Oxalis goniorrhiza Eckl. & Zey.

Keywords: Oxalis, taxonomy, speciation.

Oxalis is particularly well represented in South America, and the species are also a very prominent component of the flora of the Mediterranean region of South Africa.  This region extends from Luderitz in Namibia, southeastwards to near East London on the southeast coast (Bayer, 1974).  Annual precipitation over this area varies enormously from as little as 100 to over 1400mm/annum.  The area is divided by Rutherford and Westfall (1986) into four distinct biomes on the basis of summer aridity, seasonal distribution of rainfall and on plant growth forms.  Both geology and topography vary enormously so that landscape heterogeneity and soil forms provide great habitat contrasts over short distances.  These factors, together with historical events, probably account for the richness of the Cape flora.  Despite the potential and realised weediness (for example: O. pes-caprae L. and O. caprina L.), many species are spectacularly colourful in autumn and winter and are useful and interesting as horticultural subjects.  T.M. Salter (1944) revised the genus on the basis of his own intensive collecting.  His interest in fact started in 1931, and, although he collected until 1957, serious attention to Oxalis continued only until 1942.

Continue reading

Addendum 5. A harsh letter to Ingo Breuer

An edited copy of an unnecessarily harsh letter sent to Ingo Breuer, which includes a letter sent to Mr Harry Mays, editor of Haworthiad.  That letter commented on an article by Breuer published in Haworthiad and my reaction to it.  The comment was not for publication and was a request for assistance in countering bad and inaccurate writing.  I will make any apology for any offence and hurt I have caused by writing in this way, but I cannot apologise for anything which is true outside of my own thoughts:-

Continue reading

Addendum 6. A review of the book ‘The world of Haworthias’ Vol.1 by Ingo Breuer, Niederzier, Germany,1998.

In my Haworthia Handbook (1976) I wrote “In the by now vast and inconsequential literature on Haworthia…”.  Breuer’s book is mostly an extraordinary and wonderful index of this literature and he advises us that “a hint on cultivation, caption or simple mention of a name” are excluded.  I did not fully realise how much trivial literature there was.  What I looked for in the book was its promise for Haworthia, and evidence that the author understood the literature he has so vigorously tracked.  In 1983 I took Haworthia as far as I could with the data and material that was available, and had some well-developed ideas as to what the next step was.  As it happened, Col. C.L. Scott’s book was published (1985) which inaugurated a tradition in Haworthia in which the scientific principle of organised scepticism is lost.  I wrote several articles trying to clear the cobwebs of uncertainty and confusion that this tradition embraced.  Apparently to no avail.  I am already aware of several articles which Breuer has authored and which have been the subject of some criticism.  For me they sow the seeds of concern for the future of Haworthia.

Continue reading

Addendum 7. Is classification science or art?

A manuscript for the journal Asklepios.

Is classification science or art? Part 1.

The common reaction and assertion is that classification (of plants) is a matter of opinion.  It is also often stated to be an art, and even the late Prof.A. Cronquist in writing a book on the principles of plant taxonomy, describes it as ‘artful science’.  John Lavranos in a letter (1998), and an anonymous referee for SA Journal of Botany in an assessment of a manuscript, state that taxonomy is to a degree ‘art’.  It is necessary to examine this belief because it is intrinsic to our understanding of plants, the names we use for them and how we communicate about them.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Addendum 9. Observations on cytology as a character source in Gasteria.


The classification of Aloe, Haworthia, Gasteria, Astroloba and smaller related genera is in the public domain in the sense that there is an immense public interest in the collection and cultivation of these plants.  Unlike more general horticultural elements, succulents plants are of interest to collectors as natural “species”  and hence the taxonomy and nomenclature are central to the activity and communication which takes place in the collector citizenry.  Unfortunately the degree of interest and activity of competent (as opposed to trained) scientists (ie. botanists) has not reached the same degree and intensity.  The need for information and classification has by default passed to non-scientists/botanists.  A paper in respect of this topic is published in Asklepios (Bayer, Aug./Sept. 1999).  This particular article is written to further examine the nature of the data obtained by scientists and presented as such to the amateur community.  It is written particularly in the light of the conflict which has clouded the literature concerning Haworthia since at least 1947, and which continues unabated.

Continue reading