INTRODUCTION

Plant Taxonomy is one of the oldest sciences and it could be argued that this profession is one of the oldest practiced by humans because early humans had a much more direct involvement with the natural environment than members of any modern society. Clearly, a substantial knowledge of local plants, collectively known as the "flora" was required in early humans simply for survival reasons. Naturally occurring plants were used for food, shelter, tools, clothing, and other essential needs. These so-called '"primitive" humans undoubtedly had a much more extensive knowledge of plants than the typical modern urbanite or suburbanite. While plants and their products still play a critical role in modern human societies, we have become so far removed from the natural environment that few individuals are aware of the importance of plants. This lack of connection with the natural environment has also stunted the development of an appreciation for and knowledge of a unique and irreplaceable flora and fauna that is the product of billions of years of evolutionary processes. One of the greatest legacies that we can leave to future generations is a world with an undiminished biota. We have already destroyed whole environments and driven many species into extinction. One way to reduce and hopefully reverse this wholesale destruction is to educate as many individuals as possible of the value and beauty of natural environments and the organisms that populate them. It is hoped that this course will lead to a greater knowledge and appreciation of the plants that we encounter everyday.

The scientists who study the diversity and variation found in organisms with the purposes of classifying them and understanding their relationships to each other are referred to as Taxonomists or Systematists. While an overwhelming curiosity of the causes of the beauty and diversity found in plants is the major reason that people are drawn to dedicate their life's work to Plant Taxonomy, there are also many practical aspects to these investigations. These include: (1) production of an inventory of the world's flora, it is important that we know what is out there; (2) production of a classification system that includes all plants, this provides a systematic organization of the diversity found in plants; (3) an understanding of relationships of plants that can be incorporated into classification systems, if we have a plant that has a useful characteristic, a classification system can provide information that may lead to the discovery of related plants with similar characteristics; and (4) provide universal rules and regulations regarding the naming of plants, which is critical to identification and communication. Of course, this knowledge of plants can be used for economic purposes, such as finding plants that are new and better sources of food, shelter, clothes, medicine, etc.