ASBS Newsletter – Book Review
The Tree of Liff
written by Brendan Lepschi
(From ASBS Newsletter Number 92, September 1997)
Publisher: Better Than You Productions. Published August 1997. 32 pp.
The Tree of Liff is meant to make us laff, and in general it succeeds admirably. It takes 83 generic names of plants and, to quote the Introduction, defines them as "words for the various situations, objects and experiences encountered by botanists in their rich and exciting daily lives." All of us will relate to some or many of these definitions. I confess to being, at times, a Tweedia (currently without Velvetiae) but I hope I have never been a Dandya.
The list of Contents is quite intriguing, presumably designed for those who have difficulty remembering the alphabet (is that the next stage in the deterioration of teaching English?).
Some interpretations are questionable. For example, I would have thought that Halodule might be a particular measurement of a religious collector (see Bubbia).
Omissions are few. A synonym of Liquidambar is not there (Lagerstroemia). I would like to have seen Oblivia, (n., one who, on entering a herbarium wing, cannot remember why they came there), Austrocactus (adj., any broken piece of southern hemisphere collecting equipment that is no longer useful), Pseudodracontium (n., a herbarium label that tells you what is obvious from the specimen, e.g. 'herb 6 cm tall', but nothing else), and Cladopus (n., a systematist who produces endless trees of dubious value but, unlike the namesake, does not climb them; fortunately there is a proposal to eradicate cats by the year 2000).
No new names are published, but Lepschi does not explain whether his use of names treated as synonyms in other places (e.g. Polypompholyx) has any taxonomic significance. I noticed no typographical errors, but a few apostrophes are missing.
I look forward to a companion work on specific epithets, followed by one on common names.