Surplus time for Botanists

Mon Mar 20 14:30:33 CST 1995

TAXACOM happens to be heavily subscribed by botanists, and to have an
orientation toward systematics.  This correlation doesn't necessarily
imply the suggested underlying causation (too much free time), although
it may be easy to mistake the two.  <grin>  I place responsibility for
the intersection of botany and systematics on TAXACOM in the hands of
the person who started TAXACOM, James Beach.  This is merely a case of
correlation by descent.

Dick Jensen <rjensen at>:

>I respectfully suggest that those wondering why "botanists took so long
>to take to phylogenetics" go back and read *Syst. Bot.*, *Taxon*, and
>*Syst. Zool.* over the past 25 years.

Indeed.  And here's a nice quote along the same lines (note the date!):

"Much of the confusion during the last fifty years in discussions of the
angiosperms is due to the interjection of phylogenetic concepts into
systems of classification that were not developed originally from an
evolutionary point of view.  The older systems are logical arrangements
designed to facilitate accurate identification and to provide efficiency
in the codification and use of specimens in large herbaria. ... The most
that may be inferred from the *totality* of evidence from all organs and
parts of the plants is, in a majority of cases, the conclusion that the
related groups of plants were derived from common ancestors, now extinct."

Swamy, B.G.L. and Bailey, I.W. (1949) The morphology and relationships
of _Cercidiphyllum_.  Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 30:187-210.

PALEONET had a long discussion re nomenclature, ranks, and hierarchies
a while ago, among mostly vertebrate and invertebrate palontologists (as
far as I know), so it's not just botanists who worry about this stuff.
It was my impression that a useful consensus was reached re the topic.
With any luck, TAXACOM will similarly resolve this discussion quickly
and amicably, and we'll all learn something in the process.

        Una Smith                       una.smith at

Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT  06520-8104

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