“Liana Tips: Or More Than Most People Want To Know About Vines, Vine-Line Plants and Other Ramblings, Volume 1 of 2” is a collection of detailed information, drawings, and lists about these fascinating types of plants. True to her title, author Gwen Kirtley Perkins supplies more than most would ever want to know. She organizes the plants into different types of habitats, such as ‘watery,’ ‘wet,’ ‘moist,’ ‘dry’ and more and then further breaks down each category into very specific conditions like ‘field edges,, ‘forest edges,’ fence rows,’ etc. There are also lists of rare vine species, native and introduced ones with regard to ‘invasive’ qualities, toxicity in humans and various animals, folk medicine uses, and an a myriad of other uses. She continues the book with how to identify stem, leaf, flower, fruits, and other physical characteristics. The book ends with a list of vines found in the Southeast portion of the United States and the scientific names in Latin.
“Liana Tips” is also an autobiographical account of Perkins’ journey into the world of vines and plants in general. She speaks often of her childhood and of her marriage. I had mixed feelings about these digressions. While it was charming, it took the book off-topic quite often. Just as an example, the ‘Introduction to this Book’ didn’t start until page 36, much further in than a typical intro section would be expected. Another potential issue was that it was a mixture of fact-based information with personal opinion or preferences. Her word ‘liana,’ for instance, is what she uses for ‘vines and vine-like plants.’ She’d come to use this term by discovering the word, ‘lianes’ (pronounced ‘lie-aye’ ns). “Not particularly liking the harsh sound of that word and wanting a softer one, [she] kept looking.” She later came upon the Spanish word ‘liana’ but changed its pronunciation to sound ‘more southern sounding.’ With this in mind, I would have a difficult time recommending this book to someone looking for fact-based information on these types of plants.
I did find the information written with a passion indicative of a deep love of the subject. Obviously, Perkins is an adoring fan, even a bit obsessive, when it comes to these plants. This gave the book an endearing quality. There is no doubt that “Liana Tips” will be a treasured account of the 92-year-old author’s various hobbies and interests for her family and friends.
Liana Tips: Or More Than Most People Want To Know About Vines, Vine-Like Plants and Other Ramblings, Volume 1 of 2
Gwen Kirtley Perkins, PhD
Wheredepony Press (2010)
Reviewed by Vicki Liston for Reader Views (10/11)