Part 1 – Plant Identification
- Describe the development of plant identification.
All living organisms on Earth rely on the process of photosynthesis for food energy and oxygen. Humans depend almost entirely on plants for clean air and a livable climate as well as for food, medicines, materials, and well being. Around the world, groups of people with their own distinct history, culture, and society have learned to identify plants and their properties. For Indigenous peoples, the accumulated traditional knowledge of plants has allowed them to thrive in diverse environments for thousands of years.
Traditional knowledge passed among generations through the oral traditions of hunter-gatherers influenced the naming and grouping of plants. With the settlement of agricultural communities and the domestication of plants about 10,000 years ago, written records documented their use. Early systems of plant classification emerged in Eastern and Ancient Egyptian cultures and botany, the scientific study of plants developed in Ancient Greece.
Taxonomy, a branch of botany, is defined as the systematic classification, naming, and identification of plants. This orderly system arranges related plants with similar characteristics into groups called taxa and uses a convention called bionomial nomenclature to give a unique name to one group of plants. In addition to classification by morphology (external form) and anatomy (internal structures), botanists now use genetic sequencing and biochemistry to decode the evolutionary history of relationships among plants. As a discipline, taxonomy has continued to develop over centuries of botanical study and this knowledge is available to students of plant identification.
The ability to identify plants and their requirements has always been an essential skill for horticulturists who manage plant growth and health. However, with more than 300,000 known species in the world, the plant kingdom – Plantae, is both diverse and complex. No two species of plants will be exactly alike, and while some common characteristics may be easily seen, others are so different that few if any relationships can be observed. Furthermore, the progression of evolution never stops and relationships among plant groups continue to change over time. To address this challenge, this book introduces students of plant identification to a systematic approach to classifying, naming, and identifying unknown species.