I. Pre-literate man
Practical plant taxonomy - eat the wrong thing and die
II. Ancient Literate Civilization
Writing was great breakthrough
A. Theophrastus (370 -285 B.C.), student of Plato and Aristotle, responsible
for "Enquiry into Plants" and "The Causes of Plants"
Theophrastus noted the following:
1. Differences between organs (external) and tissues (internal).
2. Distinction of different types of tissues.
3. Classification of plants into trees, shrubs, subshrubs and herbs.
4. Distinction of flowering plants and nonflowering plants.
5. Recognition of various types of sexual and nonsexual reproduction.
6. Basic understanding of gross anatomy (CA and CO are modified leaves)
7. Recognition of fruit in its modern technical sense (pericarp)
Theophrastus wrote about 500 kinds of plants - Daucus, Asparagus, and
Narcissus are from Theophrastus. Alexander the great sent plant
material he encountered on his conquests to Theophrastos.
B. Caius Plinus Secundus (23-79 A.D.) "Pliny the Elder"
Served in Roman Army, friend of the Emperor of Rome. Produced "Natural
History" - tried to record everything known about the world. Botany
was medical and agricultural in nature. Pliny did not check out a lot of
the information he included in "Natural History".
C. Dioscorides (1st century A.D.)
Wrote "Materia Medica" - firsthand account of various plants
used in medicine, described 600 species of plants and some major groups
were placed together (mints and umbels)
A copy of "Materia Medica" ensured the owner of a successful career
in medicine or pharmacy.
"Materia Medica" was the basic source of information about plants
for 1500 years many of plants in it can be recognized with certainty.
The Codex Juliana is a beautiful copy of "Materia Medica" that
was prepared for an emperor's daughter and is in the Imperial Library in
D. Other ancient authors
China - 3600 B.C.
India - 0 A.D.
Aztecs - 1552 - Medical Botany text
III. Medieval Botany
Very little original work done during this period.
Albertus Magnus (1200-1280 A.D.) (St. Albert) produced a classification
system that recognized monocots and dicots.
Printing press was invented.
Individuals had confidence to attempt original work.
Navigation enabled collection of plants from all over the world.
German "Fathers of Botany" (15th and 16th century)
Works were mainly medical and agricultural uses of plants based on original
observations, dealt with about 1000 plants, no classification scheme
B. During the 17th century the number of plants known was becoming too
high to handle without a classification system.
Andrea Caesalpino tried to base a taxonomic scheme upon reason and logic.
John Ray grouped similar plants together.
C. Linnaean Period
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) created modern referable system of nomenclature
"Father of Plant Taxonomy"
Linnaeus assumed reproductive features were more important than other chanacteristics.
The system was based on numbers of parts, which does not give a "natural"
classification but the major contribution was that it was usable by anyone
trained in Botany. An important facet was the use of binomial nomenclature
with a genus name and specific epithet. This system is still in use.
Linnaeus main work was "Species Plantarum", published in 1753
in 2 volumes. It is the starting point for modern botanical nomenclature.
L. had 180 students and many contemporary Plant Taxonomists can trace their
lineage to L.
D. Natural system
The system produced by Linnaeus was clearly only a readily referable cataloging
system. Most advances from 1700's to early 1800's were by Frenchmen
1. Michel Adanson - assumed no single character is intrinsically more important
than any other.
2. de Jussieau family - "Genera Plantarum" was the first major
"natural" work, based on placement of like plants together
3. de Condolle family - Swiss, "Prodromus" - flora of the world,
obviously incomplete, but remains only systematic treatment available for
some plant groups.
4. George Bentham and Joseph Hooker - "Genera Plantarum" (1862-1883),
collection of generic descriptions taken from original observation, very
complete and precise.
Charles Darwin - "Origin of Species" (1859)
The publication of "Origin of Species" encouraged botanists to
incorporate evolutionary concepts into classifications.
A. Adolf Engler and Karl Prantl - "Die Naturlichen Pflanzen"
(1887-1915) started with the most primitive plants and progressed to most
structurally complex. Most floras follow this progression.
B. Bessey's dicta - The goal was to organize flowering plants in a scheme
that reflected evolutionary relationships. The main difference between
this and Engler and Prantl's work is that Bessey's system had evolution
as its central theme from the very beginning. Most modern systems of classifications,
Cronquist's are modifications of Bessey's "intuitive approach".
C. Cladism - This is a fairly recent, formalized approach to analysis.
One advantage to this approach is that other workers can determine exactly
how a particular tree or classification has been produced.