David R. Hershey
dh321 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US
Sat Apr 26 22:14:40 EST 1997
I like the terms dioecious and monoecious, however the problem is
that there is no companion term for the third and most prevalent
I. Unisexual flowers or cones
A. On same plant - monoecious (about 7% of seed plants)
B. On separate plants - dioecious (about 4% of seed plants)
II. Bisexual flowers - ?? (about 89% of seed plants)
The terminology problem is not just that there are too many
unfamiliar terms but also that 1) many obsolete terms are still
used, 2) the terms often do not make sense, 3) there is often
confusion with similar terms, 4) many terms have multiple
definitions, 5) texts often introduce terms and then do not
"follow through" by routinely use them, and 6) even advanced texts
and floras routinely misuse certain terms.
Obsolete terms include the previously mentioned photoperiodism and
geotropism, along with hydrotropism in which the whole concept is
obsolete and saprophyte, which should be myco-heterophyte because
the achlorophyllous plant depends on a mycorrhizal fungus for its
energy. It cannot directly use dead organic matter. Usually people
mean cultivar (short for cultivated variety) when they say variety.
All "-phyte" terms that refer to bacteria, algae, or fungi are now
How can plants have an epidermis when they have no dermis? If "epi- " is
used then it should be "epicortex." Why is it "cortex" in the root and
stem but the leaf cortex is the mesophyll? A stoma is defined as an
opening in the leaf, so when the stoma is closed is it no longer a stoma?
Why not say "growth in length" and "growth in diameter" instead of primary
and secondary growth, which can be confused with primary and secondary
cell walls or primary and secondary roots? It is also confusing because
primary and secondary growth can both occur the first year. A "short day"
can be longer than a "long day", and a "long day" can be shorter than a
Pollinator (pollen transfer agent) and pollenizer (plant that
provides pollen) are so close that they are usually confused. I
tell students to associate the "t" in pollinator with transfer to
tell them apart.
Herb has the everyday definition as a plant used for flavoring,
fragrance, or medicinally as well as several scientific
definitions. It is sometimes defined merely as a nonwoody plant,
sometimes as a plant that dies to the ground at the end of each
growing season (meaning it could be a woody plant) and sometimes
the first definition is limited to a particular part of the Plant
Most botany texts state that all plant cells are either parenchyma,
collenchyma, or sclerenchyma, but then don't follow through and use
those terms to identify all the specialized cell types discussed
later, such as sieve tube element, guard cell, and cork cell (all
Intro. botany texts go to great lengths to point out that flowers and
fruits are characteristics of the angiosperms, but many advanced texts
refer to gymnosperm flowers or fruits, e.g. the 1997 Physiology of Woody
Plants by Kozlowski and Pallardy discusses parthenocarpic fruit of conifers.
David R. Hershey
Snail mail: 6700 Belcrest Road #112, Hyattsville, MD 20782-1340
Adjunct Professor, Biology/Horticulture Dept.
Prince George's Community College, Largo, MD 20772-2199
Email: dh321 at pgstumail.pg.cc.md.us
On 24 Apr 1997, Margaret A. Kuchenreuther wrote:
> Though I may be in the minority, I'm going to chime in here with a dissenting
> opinion on the usefulness of plant terminology. While I agree that we should
> avoid excessive terminology, especially for non-majors and introductory
> students, because it can turn them off, I also have to agree with Kathleen
> Archer that at least our upper division students should develop a reasonable
> vocabulary of botanical terminology. Rather than "unnecessary classicism" I
> think of it as economy of language. Like it or not, when students read the
> primary literature they will encounter these terms and, therefore, should have a
> good working vocabulary. So I have students learn commonly used botanical
> terms, just as I require them to learn the scientific names of the families and
> genera they encounter in Plant Systematics. I think it helps them comunicate
> with clarity.
> I try to help ease the pain of learning lots of new terms (and scientific names)
> by accompanying them with their etymology the first time I use them. By doing
> this, students learn many root words, and subsequently can often figure out what
> new words mean.
> For example: monoecious and dioecious can be broken down into mono = one,
> di = two, and oecious (from "oikos") = house or home, and Lithospermum means
> (roughly) rock seed.
> I tell students that a bonus payoff for learning all these Greek and Latin roots
> is that it can help them get a good score on the vocabulary portion of their GRE
> test! (something I observed myself - knowing a bunch of scientific plant names
> helped me figure out the meanings of some words I hadn't encountered before)
> And besides, some weird botanical terms, like circinate vernation, are just
> plain fun to say!
> Maybe I'm an oddball who likes language more than most, but I think we should
> nurture our students in expanding their technical vocabularies.
> With respect to those with whom I disagree,
> Margaret A. Kuchenreuther
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> Division of Science and Mathematics
> University of Minnesota - Morris
> Morris, MN 56267
> Phone: (320) 589-6335 or -6300 (message)
> FAX: (320) 589-6371
> email: kuchenma at caa.mrs.umn.edu
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