cassia taxonomy

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Wed Apr 9 12:13:13 CDT 1997

At 09:57 AM 04-09-97 CDT, Anita Cholewa wrote:

>Taxonomy question for the day...
>I recently was confronted by our agronomists here who are
>"struggling" with the taxonomy of Cassia/Chamaecrista/Senna.
>Cassia hebecarpa (I think that's the correct spelling) is
>being used in experiments dealing with nodule formation.  I
>can not find this name in current floras.  Is this an older
>name for C. merilandica?  Was it once a Chamaecrista?

Senna hebecarpa (Fern.) Irwin & Barneby [Cassia hebecarpa Fern.]  is native
to the ne. USA and was long confused with Senna marilandica (L.) Link
[Cassia marilandica L.], which is found throughout much of the e. USA
(Gleason & Cronquist, Man. Vasc. Pl. Northeast. US 273. 1991].  To the best
of my knowledge, neither  has ever been placed in Chamaecrista.  Senna and
Chamaecrista are both segregates of Cassia s. lat.  My impression is that
many "leguminologists" are recognizing the segregates and a restricted
Cassia, but I can't lay my hands on a good key to the three just now.
However, I do note that Duane Isely (Mem. Torrey Bot. Club 25(2): 52-133
accepts Cassia in the broad sense.
>General point to ponder for the day...
>By way of hearsay, these same agronomists maintain that
>this particular plant is not a legume because it does not
>produce nodules.  I tried to explain to the grad student that
>that is not the basis for the familial categorization and that
>"legume" is a vernacular name given to all the members (I think
>the student understood).  I makes me wonder about our educational
>system in the universities, if this kind of fundamental item is
>misunderstood (or maybe even unknown) by other plant-based researchers

This is a news flash, that many young plant scientists know diddly-squat
about plants?  What do you expect with the widespread demise of organismal
courses,  the conversion of botany departments to "plant science" or (worse)
biology departments, the general view of taxoniomists as old-fogies, and the
pervasiveness of reductionism over a wholistic approach?  As we've sown, so
have we reaped.

Thomas G. Lammers

Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.

Department of Botany
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317

"We don't need any more well-rounded people.  We have too many now.  A
well-rounded person is like a ball; he rolls in the first direction he is
pushed.  We need more square people who won't roll away when they are pushed."
                             -- Eugene Wilson

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