new descriptions

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Wed Nov 22 11:51:17 CST 1995

On Wed, 22 Nov 1995, Dominique Collet wrote:

>         What about designing a standardized template for description of a
> new types? Experienced taxonomist specialists could put together a
> standardized list of measurements and descriptions of characters that have
> proven to be of taxonomical value in their own specialty. Characters unique
> to the new type could be added to the basic "standardized" description by
> the descriptor if not already included. This standardized template could be
> made available in the form of database program, so the new description
> would be easy to compare with other descriptions. There could be a
> centralized " new type" homepage with the standardized form available
> on-line. New descriptions could be "published" on-line and or in journals
> after revision by a panel. It could save a lot of time for retrieval and
> provide a better quality-control for descriptions.
> Dominique M. Collet (Mr.)
> collet at
> Box 704
> Sterling Ak 99672
> Alaska USA
> Phone(907 262 4030)
At the offing, this sounds like a reasonable request but it is probably
unnecessary, impractical, and undesirable - for a number of reasons.

1)  AMPLE examples of botanical descriptions and diagnoses: good, bad,
and everything in between, exist in the literature.  With a some work and
training one can learn to recognize good vs. bad Latin.

2)  There are so many different characteristics that could be included in
descriptions and diagnoses, some pertinent to certain taxa, and some not,
that a list of all possibilities would be daunting to say the least.
Even when one considers a specific, narrowly defined taxon, the list of
possible characteristics is large: everything from "habit" to "DNA

3)  Translating English descriptions and diagnoses into Latin is not an
exact science.  There is a considerable amount of "art" involved in which
the "personality" of the author colors word choices and word order.  A
"template" would remove this element, although some would probably welcome
this as a "simplification."

Indeed, this is not something that is exact.  Attempting to regulate
the kind and amount of information included in botanical descriptions and
diagnoses should be done by consulting the botanical literature to see
what has been done in the past.  Using the same characteristics, but also
using correct Latin style, should render current AND historical botanical
descriptions and diagnoses comparable.

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