A Field Guide to Surreal Botany

In 1909 Arthème Fayard published Jules Renard’s Histoires Naturelles, a book of somewhat surreal descriptions and stories of animals, insects and plants.

Continuing this tradition, Two Cranes Press has just released its A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, a collection of pseudo-scientific descriptions of plants, edited by Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg and provided with fabulous water-colour illustrations by the former.

As in any book with so many entries, by such a wide variety of writers (there are tons of contributors), the reader will be more impressed by some than others; fascinated by one, pondering over another, re-reading a third aloud to one’s family after dining on lamb with plum sauce and drinking tea. Some people prefer nectarines to peaches. I like melon most (if it’s ripe).

Some entries that stood out for me:

The Forget-me-bastard flower by Elaine Clift. The name alone is worth the price.

The cleverly done Kvetching Aspen, by H. F. Gibbard, which groan in unison in the Teton’s of Wyoming.   

The mysterious Cloud Anemone, rarely seen by the human eye, by James Trimarco.

The one I enjoyed the most was probably the Big Yellow Flower of Unnecessarily Obvious Information, by Elizabeth Langford, which really needs to be read and seen to be appreciated.

As good as many of the individual pieces are however, the book really needs to be taken in as a whole to be properly appreciated, as the design and accumulated strangeness are a big part of its appeal.

Click here for ordering information…

The complete contents list is as follows:

Susan Fedynak: (Floating) Armor of the Dark Blue Heart, Armorea Navum
* Alexandra O’Neal: Attercopp Plant, Chelicereae Telacaulum
* Andrew Nicolle: Avian Trumpetflower, Trochilium avifructus
* Jay Lake: Baby Cabbage, also regionally referred to as The Leaf, Squallroot or Mother’s Little Helper, Cruciferae Brassica homogenesis
* Elizabeth Langford: Big Yellow Flower of Unnecessarily Obvious Information, Explanatum obviosis
* Steve Himmer: Bitter Mortar, Cucurbitaceae Marah
* Eric J. Millar: Bone Garden, otherwise known as Adam’s Ribcage, Aloe skelaphalia
* John Bowker: Burning Bush Fungus, Encephalitozoon Elysium
* Ann Leckie: Clickweed, Everricula Pilolaqueus
* James Trimarco: Cloud Anemone, Bromeliaceae Tillandsia nebularia
* Jonathan Wonham: Couch Kelp, Siturfatarscea velvetorleva monthlypaymentis
* John Black: Devil’s Pork, Tuberaceae Tuber
* Jon Hansen: Dream Melons, Melo somnio
* Steve Berman: Esemtep, Unclassified
* Lucy A. Snyder: Fairy Apple, Timewarp Lemon, Atlantis Mandrake, Podophyllum sidhe
* Francesca Forrest: Firefly Bellflower, Tintinnabulum photuris
* Matthew Baugh: Flame Lily, Nymphaeaceae-flammiferum
* Elaine Clift: Forget-Me-Bastard, Myosovictimis uncertae sedis
* Patricia L. Havis: Giant Cloud Lily, Liliaceae Lilium
* Mark Teppo: Haunt Vine (also known as Ghostroot and Spirit Creeper), Ipomoea Umbris
* Mary E. Lowd: Kitty Willow, Salix ambulara
* H.F. Gibbard: Kvetching aspen, Populus kvetchis
* Brendan Carson: Lautokan Ear-blossom Plant (Tautau e vata), Auriculula cosmetales
* Adam Nakama: Leonidas’ Bloom, Campanula lacedaemia
* Merrie Haskell: Library Plum, Bibloteca prunus
* Kris Dikeman: Nightmare Lotus, Nymphae somnium maledictus
* Cassandra Phillips-Sears: Ozymandias-Plant, Lamiaceae (Genus unknown)
* Shveta Thakrar: Padmamukhi (the Lotus-Mouthed), Nelumbonaceae nelumbo
* Victoria Elisabeth Garcia: Poliphila, or “Shriner Vine,” Unclassified
* Eric Schaller: Queen Victoria’s Bloomers, Monkey Ho, Caligula homocopulus
* Yvonne Pronovost: Screaming Mimi, Datura clamo
* Darja Malcolm-Clarke: Shade’s Globe (also: Sibylwort), Umberia medianus
* David Kelly: Singing Grass, Unclassified
* January Mortimer: Stag-Eye Nettle, Urtica aboculus
* Suzanne Palmer: Swift River Hopping Pitcher Plant, Pseudosarracenia verdeverminus
* Livia Llewellyn : Teslated Salishan Evergreen, Cupressuceaohm salishan nikola
* Philip J. Lees: The Faerie Hogweed, Heracleum ignotum
* Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek: The Nabokov, Unclassified
* Toiya Kristen Finley: The Poseur Nosehairs, Animaceae Sominus
* Matthew Kressel: The Sembla, Spasmodicus plasticosa
* Catherine Gunson: Thuringian Shade-tree, Umbropsida noctalus
* Christopher M. Cevasco: Time Cactus, Chronocactus hematophageis
* Vera Nazarian: Twilight Luon-Sibir, Russica spectrata
* Tom Pendergrass: Ugly Tree, Medusa’s Hairbrush, Acer horrendoturpis
* Erik Amundsen: Waterbaby Cress, Nasturtium Charleskingsleni
* Shweta Narayan: Whistle tree, Catalpa musicalis
* Alex Chambers: Wild Homilywort (var. Speechtree), Quercus loquatium
* Dave Coulter: Wind melon, Saturn melon, God’s Eyes, Cucumis melo helioaero


4 Responses to A Field Guide to Surreal Botany

  1. Frank Gibbard says:

    Thanks, Brendan, for your review of Surreal Botany and your kind words about “Kvetching Aspen.” I had fun writing that one.

    I see you’ve been published in McSweeney’s. Their humor category has always cracked me up.

    /s/ H.F. (Frank) Gibbard

  2. brendanconnell says:

    No problem, it was a funny piece that reminded me a bit of McSweeney’s actually.

  3. Elaine Clift says:

    I’m so thrilled that someone liked what I wrote! This is the first thing I’ve had published, and I had alot of fun writing it, I couldn’t be happier that people are enjoying reading it.

  4. brendanconnell says:

    Hi Elaine,

    Yes, well, I’m sure you’ll have lots more published.

    Well done!

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