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Record: oai:ARNO:533320

AuthorC.G.G.J. van Steenis
TitleAccuracy and common sense in plant descriptions
JournalFlora Malesiana Bulletin
AbstractIn papers and manuscripts on tropical phytography I find a growing tendency to ”overdo accuracy”, with the negative effect that accuracy is underdone. Tropical phytography operates, of necessity, at a different level of accuracy in details than does temperate botany, because the aim is wider and the materials and field knowledge scantier. But as often has been demonstrated, if the second and third storey are begun before the first storey has been completed, such a wing of the house of science is unfit for inhabitation. I see it therefore as the present task of the tropical botanist to finish the first storey of knowledge, and of accuracy, for all groups. With this in mind, some thought should be given to the following considerations.
In the first place there is again a growing custom with several to incorporate so much (often unnecessary or unwanted) detail in descriptions to obscure the important and really distinctive characters. Everybody can understand that, whereas a herbarium botanist may often be very glad to have 30 specimens collected during 150 years, which is a fraction of a fraction of the millions of specimens of the sum of the populations growing in nature during that period, it is a vainless attempt to encompass on the basis of three dozen specimens the complete polymorphism in great detail. If one wants to make such elaborate descriptions, one should split them into a diagnostic description followed by additional measurements and characters of secondary value. This is a compulsory courtesy against those who will consult such elaborate descriptions. With more collections coming in it is clear that there will be always minor deviations from the additional descriptive part, but more rarely in the diagnostic part; in the latter case one is becoming alert.
Document typearticle
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