Ideas in systematics

Scott T. Meissner smeissne at PRAIRIENET.ORG
Thu Feb 27 08:41:14 EST 1997

Recently Lonore Durkee (durkeel at asked what are some of the 
interesting issues and topics in plant systematics.

Please let me note first that I am just a "dumb" physiologist,
but one who read an article or two.  So the following is 
what this interested non-expert finds interesting in 
systematics.	;)

There is a special issue of the International Journal of 
Plant Science (1996, vol 157) that has several interesting
articles on the Gnetales.  One article I read is by J.A. Doyle
and was very interesting.  In this article Dr. Doyle did two
things.  He pointed out some of the interesting traits of the 
Gnetales, and he described some alternative interpretations
published in 1994 by Dr. Nixon.  There are also other
articles in this issue that I liked which described the 
reproduction of Ephedra and Gnetum (by Friedman etal.).  This
suggested some interesting ideas on how double fertilization 
arose, since both of these Genera have double fertilization, but
the authors point out it is very different from how the 
Angiosperms do double fertilization. You can not do good 
systematics without understanding anatomy and reproduction 
it seems...

If you are into molecular systematics you might see some of 
the articles in the American Journal of Botany.  For 
instance there is an article by Godt etal. 1996, "Genetic
structure of two endangered pitcher plants, Sarracenia jonesii
and Sarracenia oreophila (Sarraceniaceae)".  I seem to recall
other molecular systematics studies in previous issues
of this journal that deal with the classification and ecology of rare/
endangered varieties of plants.   I see this sort of work as
systematics, though others might lump it into conservation.

My impression is that the immediate relatives of the Angiosperms
is still not nailed down.  Nor is the phylogeny of other extant 
plants clear.  For instance, how many times did seeds evolve, 
which genus of algae gave rise to the plants, how did the
carpel arise?  This gets into the fossil record, and that 
quickly gets into details that students might find 

Hope some of this gives you grist for the mill!

Scott T. Meissner, Division of Science and Mathematics
	McKendree College, 701 College Rd, Lebanon, IL  62254
	Tel: (618) 537-6934 
	E-mail: smeissne at

Aure Entuluva!

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