Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group
The Flowering Plant Gateway

Biological classification systems are multi-purpose constructs with 'internal' information content in that they chart patterns of affinity and phyletic relationship. Systematists make every effort to develop and refine these systems to insure that the relationships expressed are as close to evolutionary reality as possible. This function - the depiction of lineage relationships - allows the classification system to provide a structural framework that can be used to predict, extrapolate, and explore along paths of symmetry that reflect relative genetic/genomic affinity and distance. This process can be enhanced by 'fleshing out' the systematic framework of a classification system by adding 'layers' of data. The Flowering Plant Gateway is being developed to explore procedures that 'attach' the growing mass of internet data developing for flowering plant families to stable taxonomic structures. The resulting systematic data matrix can be negotiated by anyone seeking information on a given flowering plant family, either with regard to its placement in the Thorne/Cronquist/Takhtajan systems or, via selection of a high-lighted family name, web links to other sources. The 'family search' option also includes access to internet information on non-flowering vascular plant families.

This project, a product of the Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group, involves the development of computer programs that allow automated, machine-generated HTML page production for each Subclass/Superorder of the Flowering Plants as structured by the Cronquist, Takhtajan, and Thorne Systems of classification. This is accomplished by a PC database program that attaches data, carried in a suite of data tables, to listed families. These data, indexed by family name, include URLs to various 'content' sites on the World Wide Web. While many of these information sources are isolated 'bits' of information relating to a given family, genus, or species, some are 'high content' centers that carry masses information which is organized in such a way - by family - that incorporation into this system is possible. Development of the 'Gateway' has required interaction with, and cooperation from, individuals at the sites mentioned below. Their help and assistance, consistent with the academic tradition of open, free information flow, has allowed the system to become a functional resource:

Many links to local (Texas A&M) pages were developed in collaboration with John Kartez and the Biota of North America Program. This collaboration included Edwin Smith for links to families of the Akransas Flora. Direct links to DELTA family descriptions are a product of collaboration with Mike Dallwitz and Julian Humphries (Biodiversity and Biological Collections Web Server). Access to the flowering plant image collection at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) Department of Botany was made possible with help from Mike Clayton. Linkage to ethnobotanical data of the USDA-AGIS system was assisted by Stephen M. Beckstrom-Sternberg. Reference to family data from the Manual to the Vascular Plants of Costa Rica involved collaboration with Barry Hammel and Werner Bohl. R. Douglas Ramsey helped with links to the electronic Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Utah. Access to the flowering plants of Hawaii has been assisted by Gerry Carr. Links to family nomenclature for each Cronquist family are made available by James Reveal. Links to generic listings from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew were made possible by Mark Jackson. Access to GRIN has been assisted by J. H. Wiersema (USDA-ARS) and links to the USDA-NRCS PLANTS database have been made possible by their development of a relatively open query capability.

Data files used to build the Gateway are expanded as new information becomes available. Pages are updated when a significant amount of new material has accumulated. Addition of new WWW pages or items not currently listed can be accomplished by sending the URL to Hugh Wilson. New data files can be created for sites that carry information for multiple families organized by family. This requires transmission, from the source site, of an ASCII text file, with fields delimited by quotes and separated by commas, of the following structure:

"family","file name","server directory (if more than one)"

with the full URL and a description of the data OR a pointer to files that carry this information. Commercial material and pages that are slow to load will not be posted to the Gateway.

Return to the Gateway's Home or the TAMU-BWG Homepage.
Last updated on: 11 February 1998