Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lumpers and splitters

It is generally widely known that botanists fall into one of two camps - lumpers or splitters.  In a sense these are boundary judgments that systemists appreciate.  The lumpers see traits in common that warrant a wider boundary; splitters see differences that to them warrant demarcation and distinction.  Unfortunatly the actions of botanists leaves the likes of tourists or journalists or novelists out of sympathy with their actions for their's is an all or none systematic (not systemic) choice.  Take the acacia for example - species that are symbolically and culturally significant in  much of Africa and Australia. No longer can I legitimately (in botanical terms) refer to the thorny acacia of Africa (as I did in my last post). Instead by rights I should have referred to the spiny vachellia, or perhaps senegalia!

According to Wikipedia:

"The genus Acacia previously contained roughly 1300 species, about 960 of them native to Australia, with the remainder spread around the tropical to warm-temperate regions of both hemispheres, including Europe, Africa, southern Asia, and the Americas. However, in 2005 the genus was divided into five separate genera under the tribe "Acacieae." The genus Acacia was retained for the majority of the Australian species and a few in tropical Asia, Madagascar and Pacific Islands. Most of the species outside Australia, and a small number of Australian species, were reclassified into Vachellia and Senegalia. The two final genera, Acaciella and Mariosousa, each contain about a dozen species from the Americas."

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