Plant Systematics course textbook

Harvey E. Ballard, Jr. ballardh at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu May 21 10:36:17 CDT 1998

Choice of a textbook depends on how one circumscribes a plant "systematics"
course.  If it's truly going to be more of a floristic course, heavy on
characteristics of major families and with emphasis on learning how to
identify common examples of the regional flora, using a regional flora as a
textbook and lecturing on familial traits is perhaps the best way.  If it's
going to be more of a broadbrush approach but still emphasizing families or
major groups of plants, Woodland's textbook might be more appropriate,
hopefully augmented with recent studies, molecular and otherwise,
reevaluating major lineages; he covers families very nicely and also has a
CD with numerous images.  If it's going to be a more theoretically based
course, covering a wide range of topics from the more narrowly defined
"taxonomic/nomenclatural" through the
"systematic/biosystematic/phylogenetic" and even getting into evolutionary
issues, but deemphasizing plant identification and lower-level traits, the
depth of coverage of the most recent [3rd] edition of Briggs and Walter's
"Plant Variation and Evolution" (Cambridge University Press) could be
useful; it covers very generally some recently used molecular approaches,
but will be shorter on analytical methods than some may like (in which case
further augmentation for different approaches including phenetic and
cladistic will be valuable).  My own viewpoint--based only on having taken
both types as a student and taught labs for each--is that both a hard-core
"taxonomic" or "regional floristic" course AND a more theoretically based
systematics course (and even a strict "evolution" course) are important,
and cannot necessarily be amalgamated into a single course without making a
single course ungainly or overly difficult.  But others have much more
experience on this.

Harvey E. Ballard, Jr., Assistant Professor, Plant Evolution and Systematics
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Porter Hall, Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701
(740) 593-4659 (office & lab phone)
(740) 593-1130 (fax)
email: ballardh at

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