Monday, June 4, 2012

Plant Families- Patterns in Nature

A practical thing botany teaches is to look at similarities and differences or patterns in plants. When growing vegetables you start to see resemblances between the plants and it can be useful to develop some general knowledge about how plant families are classified. I have found this knowledge particularly useful for:

  • Crop rotation — so you can avoid planting crops from the same family in the same spot each season, or too close together
  • Pest management — the same families have similar pests and diseases and control methods
  • Seed saving — plants in the same family may cross pollinate or have similar seed collection and storage needs, so you don’t need to memorise the details for every individual plant
Plants are classified botanically into groups according to similarities in their flowers, seeds and their genes. Two plants that have almost identical looking leaves may not be related at all botanically. So while the growing form, such as leaves or height, can give some clue to whether plants are related, the best place to start to see the family patterns it is to look closely at the flowers and seed formation.
Important is the overall shape of flowers; symmetry — are they symmetrical if cut from all angles or only along one axis? What is the flower structure — are there single or multiple flowers together; how do they branch? Which flowers open first — those at the top or the bottom?
All of these are clues to which plants belong to the same family.

 By Elspeth Brock
 Click here to read the full article on the Permaculture Research Institute website

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