Plant Diversity

Historical Interest in Plants

What were some of the steps to modern plant classifications?

Like most organism classification systems, plants have had a varied history. English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin’s (1809–1882) ideas on evolution began to influence systems of classification during the late nineteenth century. The first major phylogenetic (relating to the evolutionary development of organisms) system of plant classification was proposed around the close of the nineteenth century. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien (The Natural Plant Families), one of the most complete phylogenetic systems of classification and still in use through the twentieth century, was published between 1887 and 1915 by the German botanists Adolf Engler (1844–1930) and Karl Prantl (1849–1893). Their system recognizes about 100,000 species of plants, organized by their presumed evolutionary sequence. Systems of classifications in the twentieth century often focused on groups of plants, especially flowering plants, rather than all plants. American taxonomist Charles Bessey (1845–1915) was the first scientist to publish a system of classification in the early twentieth century.


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