Classification & Identification and Naming of Medicinal Plants
Nature is characterized by diversity. No two individuals are exactly alike. Some individuals have identical genomes (arrays of genes). However, in appearance, even clonal populations or identical
twins exhibit differences. Every culture has a system for grouping individuals for a variety of practical purpose; names are attached to the groups and the component types of which they are
comprised. As long as a culture remained closed to the outside world there was no problem with the culture-based nomenclature.
However, as cultures merged with each other and plant materials
were moved across cultural and geographic lines, it became necessary, for effective cross-cultural communication, to have a universal system of naming plants. This system ensured that corn, even though called maize in another culture, would have a neutral name and mean the same crop to all people.
Some superficial differences automatically place organisms into distinct classes. For example, there are plants and there are animals. In plants, some bear flowers, others do not some have broad leaves, others have narrow leaves; some bear fleshy fruits, others bear grains; and so on. These natural systems of classification are arbitrary and reflect the used human cultures have for plants. Other forms of nomenclature are based on scientific principles that have universal application. This chapter explores the origin and nature of these difference systems for grouping and naming plants.