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1st formal Edition of the CD of Plant Biographies (or Plant's Eye View of the Planet and Man). About 1000 extra pages which include a dramatic expansion of R genera plus other additions and changes.


What the project involves

Format of Plant Biographies

The Plant Biographies are presented in an easily accessible dictionary format which allows you to dip in at will. This is neither a gardening ‘book’ nor a botanical ‘book’. It does not give advice on how to grow or use plants; nor does it present information of a professional/academic nature. Some of the material eg. the meaning of plant names, is reported from authoritative botanical sources (and other professional experts) but no botanical terminology or discourse has been included apart from the scientific names.

The entries draw together, in plain language, any interesting direct or indirect data on plant species which is not easily accessible to the general public but is already available. The plants include trees, palms, shrubs, annuals, biennials, perennials, and a small number of cacti, seaweeds, lichens, ferns, mosses, and fungi from all over the world. The majority of them, or some of their uses, are familiar to most of us. Mushrooms are not included, not least because they are difficult to describe succinctly in plain language. The text covers many of their common and foreign names, their economic and other uses (including culinary and medicinal), their involvement in customs and events, their associations with individual people and places, their role in literature and folklore, and their history, influence on society and environmental impact.

The Research

The wealth of 'unusual' material on any one species can be quite surprising – a paragraph here, a phrase or word there, gleaned from many books (see the Bibliography), from radio or television interviews and other programmes, from films, journals, newspapers and magazines, - even from literature, song, music, art, poetry, and nursery rhyme, from lectures, chance conversations and news reports – in fact anything relevant that my eye or ear alights upon. The material is rigorously researched and data is cross-examined and authenticated as far as possible using modern recognized authoritative sources (as well as an increasing list of contacts in universities and other bodies) before absorption into the appropriate entry.


Whether to Include or Exclude Material

Sometimes factual information eg. harvesting methods, date of introduction to a particular region has had to be omitted, however fascinating, because the accuracy has been uncertain. Various details may also have been excluded ultimately if they were likely to make passages boring to read ie. explanation(s) of every common name could be exceedingly tedious, and this project aims primarily to excite, amaze and entertain, not offer academic argument. On the other hand there are instances when different authorities pose various, often isolated, points of view and these are presented as alternatives.

Initially the size of the document curtailed the inclusion of, for instance, every identified foreign common name, or the comprehensiveness of the General Index (available on the CD only). With well over 1.75 million words in the main text by 2013, this has been relaxed and all identified foreign names are now included. Additionally on the CD the contents of the extensive General Index (which itself is preceded by a Summary) has actually been extended to embrace more details than previously practicable. This enables us to offer an overview of the unexpected encyclopedic content of Plant Biographies as well as greater access.

Attribution of Material

For two particular reasons, specific attribution has not been made in this work apart from that offered by the Bibliography. On a surprising number of occasions subsequent research has shown that, on a particular point already included additional authorities emerge in support of it, in disagreement with it, and/or with alternative explanations for it. Thus there can be no certainty that any one authoritative comment can be construed as incontrovertible, although it may have been presented unwittingly in that fashion in the source concerned. The second factor is a practical one. It is impossible to anticipate the material that will or will not be unearthed when researching. As a result entries are built up gradually and written and re-written to accommodate each small or large addition, thus an initial attribution could subsequently be shared in whole or in part by one or a multitude of other sources which would be extremely cumbersome and nigh impossible in many instances to present.



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