HERB - the period pumpkin; re families

khkeeler kkeeler at unlinfo.unl.edu
Wed Apr 29 09:48:40 PDT 1998

Clare wrote about the gourds and squashes and I won't quote her--biology
and biology x history seem fine
  I would like to use this moment to partly explain plant classification
(is that in the FAQ? then I apologise)
 	Science since Linnaeus (post period!) organizes organisms into a
hierarchy: kingdoms made of  divisions (for animals, phylum) down
through class order family genus and species.
Genus and species is the scientific (Latin) name.
  For flowering plants the families are pretty stable while the
relationships into order etc. are still being revised or aren't much
help so people talk about plant family of a species to help orient you
(there are some 235,000 species to know and love!).  So the unit that
botanists talk about in terms of domesticated gourds, melons and
pumpkins are the domesticated plants in the Cucurbitaceae.  The -ceae
ending tells you its a family in the classification scheme.  We then say
"cucumber family" to orient you to one familiar member; we could say
"pumpkin family"---or "cantalope family" if that's what you could relate
> As far as I can determine the luffa family and the curcibits (cucumber) had
> relatives grown in period in Europe but not pepos.  Luffas and cukes
> families have small flowers (go out and look at your cucumber plants and
> note the blooms)  The squashes and pumpkins families have big flowers
> (zucchini/squash blossoms). That's an easy way of telling what family they
> are in.
So the groups Clare is speaking about here are genera (singular genus,
plural genera, from the Latin) and while its perfectly good vernacular
English to lump things as families, in this context its disconcerting.

Agnes deLanvallei, Mag Mor, Calontir
kkeeler1 at unl.edu
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