Inflorescence - Peduncle

Curtis Clark jcclark-lists at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon Dec 6 22:14:25 CST 2004

on 2004-12-06 10:22 Paterson, Trevor wrote:
> I agree with all you say.....but the problem still remains:
> words/terms can have various definitions and meanings according to
> context and usage - but unless an attempt is made to formalize and
> relate these definitions and usages we cannot progress knowledge
> integration.

To open the can of worms further, a formalization that obscures the
biology of interest can be less productive than no formalization at all.
No references at hand, but it seems to me that every science reaches a
point where formalization is productive, but prior to that it is often
(in retrospect) wasted effort.

And a real danger. especially for botanists, in formalizing terminology
is the tendency toward typology. Posters to this thread have dealt with
questions of whether specific structures are stem or leaf, and indeed in
  most seed plants, the distinction between stem and leaf is clear, both
positionally and ontogenetically, but that is best interpreted as our
being very fortunate that nature largely maintains that distinction,
rather than that stem and leaf are somehow archetypes.

Richard's example of "berry" is a good one. A lot of the fruit
terminology taught in general botany classes is a result of narrowly
descriptive terms, often from agricultural contexts, being used
typologically. My favorite is "pepo", a fruit with a hard or leathery
exocarp (but it's really the hypanthium, not part of the pericarp at
all), as long as it's in the Cucurbitaceae, because otherwise bananas
would be pepos, and we can't have that. Sometimes it almost seems easier
to throw out existing terminology and start over rather than have to
deal with the detritus of the past.

Curtis Clark        
Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona                 +1 909 979 6371
Professor, Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4062

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