Descriptions and images that we refer to as 'Delta' are derived from the Angiosperm Families - INTKEY Package (6 March 1995) by L. Watson, 78 Vancouver Street, Albany WA 6330, Australia, Phone: +61 98 41 6181 Fax: +61 98 41 4027 (c/o The Residency Museum) and M. J. Dallwitz CSIRO Division of Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia, Phone +61 6 246 4075 Fax +61 6 246 4000 Internet (see L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz, 1991, The families of angiosperms: automated descriptions, with interactive identification and information retrieval. Aust. Syst. Bot., 4, 681-95)

This MS-DOS INTKEY package for angiosperm families is available by gopher or anonymous ftp from hosts (dir: /pub/delta/angio) and (dir: /delta/angio)

This material includes descriptions of the families of angiosperms, which are maintained under the DELTA system in the Taxonomy Laboratory of the Research School of Biological Sciences at the Australian National University (Watson and Dallwitz 1991, Dallwitz 1980, Dallwitz, Paine, and Zurcher 1993). It is supplied as MS-DOS files containing the program and data, along with about 450 family illustrations by L. Steinheil and A. Riocreux taken from Le Maout and Decaisne (1873), about 120 from Lindley (1853), about 50 from Thonner (1915), and a few sample coloured and black-and-white photos. Also included are a complete set of natural language descriptions, source references (REFS.TXT), and details of other INTKEY packages available from the above address (DATASETS.TXT).

This package of 563 descriptions is `complete', in the sense that it purports to include all the families, and to carry for each of them a morphological description that is at least workable in an identificatory context. Many of them are minimal even for that purpose, and there is infinite scope for improvement. However, comprehensive information is included on geographical distributions, on variation in photosynthetic pathways (with lists of the genera known to include C4 and/or CAM species), and on the occurrence of leaf phloem transfer cells (the latter summarizing primary data not published elsewhere). Very extensive data are also included on other features, including seedling germination type, embryology, anther ontogeny, pollen cytology and morphology, stigma type, sieve-tube plastids, leaf, stem, nodal and wood anatomy, and phytochemistry (phenolics, alkaloids, cyanogenesis, etc.). Also included are family synonyms; comprehensive information on numbers of species and genera in each family, and complete lists or examples of the genera in each; the complete classifications, to the level of Order, of Dahlgren (1980), Cronquist (1981) and Takhtajan (1980) for Dicots, and of Dahlgren, Clifford and Yeo (1985) for Monocots; and comprehensive assignment of Dicotyledons to the major groups Crassinucelli and Tenuinucelli of Young and Watson (1970), which represent the clearest and most useful high-level taxonomic distinction yet demonstrated in that assemblage (the Cronquist and Takhtajan subclasses are unsound, and Dahlgren's 18 superorders, while taxonomically far superior, are too numerous to satisfy the routine sampling requirements of experimentalists).

Many of the works listed in the accompanying References file (REFS.TXT) are largely or partly compilations, which themselves cite primary data sources: the latter are listed only when they have been utilized directly. The second phase in organization of the database has now commenced, involving more assiduous pursuit of primary sources. The character list includes some provisional characters and suites of `characters', which have yet to be resolved into satisfactory characters and states. For example, an obviously unsatisfactory `character' is being used to assemble descriptive information on styles, stigmas and stigmatic surfaces in apocarpous and syncarpous gynoecia. This and similar cases will be resolved later, when proper assessments of the available descriptive data have been made. For information on individual characters, consult the `Character Notes' available via INTKEY.

The line drawings are from Le Maout and Decaisne's A General System of Botany (1873: illustrated by L. Steinheil and A. Riocreux, who used Decaisne's collection of analytical drawings), Lindley's The Vegetable Kingdom (1853: illustrations specially prepared for that work, or from other sources specified on the legends), and Thonner's Flowering Plants of Africa (1915). The layouts have been changed, mainly to account for family realignments, and some effort was required to remove foxing and fingerprints. It has seemed inappropriate to replace the original legends, although it should be noted that they carry many superseded generic names.

Contributions of descriptive data and illustrations suitable for improving and extending the database would be welcomed, and appropriately acknowledged in the displays and in the accompanying literature.


Airy Shaw, H.K. (1973). J.C. Willis's A dictionary of the flowering plants and ferns. 8th edition. Cambridge University Press.

Bruhl, J.J., Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992). Genera of Cyperaceae: interactive identification and information retrieval. Taxon 41, 225-234.

Cronquist, A. (1981). An integrated system of classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

Dallwitz, M. J. (1980). A general system for coding taxonomic descriptions. Taxon 29, 41-6.

Dallwitz, M. J., Paine, T. A., and Zurcher, E. J. (1993). User's guide to the DELTA System: a general system for processing taxonomic descriptions. 4th edition. CSIRO Division of Entomology, Canberra.

Le Maout, E. and Decaisne, J. (1873). A general system of botany. (English translation by Mrs Hooker, with aditional material by J.D. Hooker. Illustrations by L. Steinheil and A. Riocreux). Longmans, Green and Co., London.

Lindley, J. (1853). The vegetable kingdom: the structure, classification and uses of plants. 3rd edition. Bradbury and Evans, London.

Thonner, Fr. (1915). The flowering plants of Africa. Dulau & Co. Ltd., London.

Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1988). Grass genera of the world. Illustrations of characters, descriptions, classification, interactive identification and information retrieval. Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra.

Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1991). The families of Angiosperms: automated descriptions, with interactive identification and information retrieval. Aust. Syst. Bot. 4, 681-695.

Watson, L., Gibbs Russell, G.E. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1989). Grass genera of southern Africa: interactive identification and information retrieval from an automated data bank. S. Afr. J. Bot. 55, 452-63.

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Last updated by HDW on 15 March 1995