Plant families

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  • What is a species? Many species concepts. Ideally: Populations of potentially or actually interbreeding individuals, with reproductive isolation to sister species (sterile hybrids). BSC (Mayr). Difficult to test.
  • Functionally: Gather specimens, examine: Non-plastic morphological discontinuity.
  • Taxonomists gather collections, place in piles based on our very good mental clustering tools, then record characters.
  • Characters: elements of the phenotype (traits). Also called `traits'
  • Species characters vs. characters of higher taxa (genera, families)
  • Sharing characters defines a group. In animals with a complex body many organs arise only once in evolutionary history, and the presence of this organ or character (a syn-apomorphy) defines a monophyletic group. In plants, with simpler, more plastic bodies, we usually need a combination of characters.
  • Fertile (flower) characters (sometimes unique) vs. sterile characters
  • Diagnosis. Keys. Dichotomous.
  • Species (or higher) character matrix. Allows multi access entry. Excel. DELTA. Demo of Bornean tree key.
  • We will teach a limited set of monophyletic families/orders

Our characters

With just four characters, you can learn to identify, to family or order, more than 60% of the species in this forest:

  • Leaf arrangement
  • Leaf complexity
  • Stipules
  • Sap presence and color

There are other families and species that share the character combinations you learn (i.e. the character cominations are not exclusive to these learned families), but you are learning the most common taxa with these character combinations.

Our taxa

("quote" indicates that the character state is common but not universal. * indicates a key character)

Taxon Common members Leaf arrangement Stipules Simple/
Sap Other
Annonaceae soursop alt no simple no alt disticous, peeling bark*, rays in wood, smell aromatic
Clusiaceae mangosteen opp no simple *yellow (white)
Dipterocarpaceae illipe nut, timber alt yes simple "no" tidy veins
Euphorbiaceae rubber "alt" yes* "simple" "no" long petioles* (in some)
Fabaceae beans alt yes "compound" "no"
Moraceae figs alt yes, encircling simple white* conical terminal buds*
Myristicaceae nutmeg alt no simple red* aromatic smell
Myrtales eucalypt opp/alt no simple no
Rubiaceae coffee opp yes, interpetiolar* simple no
Sapindales rambutan, lyche alt "no" pinnate* "no"
(Anacardiaceae, in Sapindales) mango alt no "simple" black*