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Chapter: Plant Anatomy:An Applied Approach: Economic aspects of applied plant anatomy

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Identification and classification - Economic aspects of applied plant anatomy

It is not always appreciated how important it is to be able to give the correct name to a plant.

Identification and classification

It is not always appreciated how important it is to be able to give the correct name to a plant. Cytologists, geneticists, ecologists, plant breeders, chem-ists and anyone using plants for medicine, food, furniture, fabric or build-ing material, or those conducting molecular research on plants, must be able to identify their source material or they may not be able to continue with their work. They would not know if further plant specimens or tim-bers were from the same species that they started with; their results and ap-plications would be unpredictable; and the foundations for sound scientific botanical research would be undermined. Identification depends on a sta-ble, logical, usable and basically sound system of classification. At present, many plants can be identified adequately if all organs, for example flowers, fruits, leaves, etc., are present. The traditional herbarium methods can then be applied. However, there are very large numbers of plants which have been classified using macromorphological features alone.

A more natural, accurate and reliable classification results from also taking into account features of morphology, anatomy, palynology, biochemis-try, population studies and so on. This ideal can rarely be attained, but once the ‘alpha’ taxonomy of a family has been studied, the synthetic approach should be used for revisions, as has been done now for a considerable time. Should revisions based entirely on hand-lens studies of herbarium material be outlawed? Certainly not, but on the other hand once done the incorpora-tion of anatomical and other data may well lead to better and easier identifi-cations and classification.

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