Update: 2012-12-28 05:23 PM +0630



03. History of Classification: Theories


by George H. M. Lawrence, Professor of Botany at the Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, 1951

Photo-copied by Maung Kan Tun from the original text.
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Contents of this page

History of Classification
Ancient Indian Botany and Taxonomy -
Beginnings and Developments in the West
Dogma of Special Creation

UKT notes
Thoughts of Plant classification in Ancient China
Vŗkşāyurveda of Parāśara
Zoogeography and language families

Contents of this page

03. History of Classification

-- UKT 121221

The study of plants, their classification, and how to apply them to medicine came only very recently to the Western world. In the East, particularly in India, the study began in the time-period of Rig Veda or in a pre-Veda period thousands of years ago. The third group of hymns in Rig Veda was directed to Soma, a medicinal plant which had been personified into a god who was then related to a luminary in the sky - the Moon.

Articles such as given below by Lalit Tiwari, might be scoffed at by the "so-called" modern scientists in the West as well as, even, in India. To them I would say, if you are a real scientist keep an open mind as I am trying to do myself -- a material scientist, a skeptical chemist, but who is now studying Sanskrit as a language written in Devanagari script. -- UKT121221

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Ancient Indian Botany and Taxonomy

by Lalit Tiwari , posted 030624, ltherbal@rediffmail.com
http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/t_es/t_es_tiwar_botany.htm 121218
UKT: The following is my edited version. I plan to give, at a later date, the Skt-Dev for the Sanskrit terms given by Tiwari. -- UKT 121221
See also article on Ayuveda co-authored by Lalit Tiwari, http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/t_es/t_es_agraw_ayurveda_frameset.htm 121224

Before the invention of microscope, and the electron microscope, the microscopic world was not visible to humans. Microscopes made it possible to study the vascular structures and their function in nutrient transport, as also cellular basis of growth. But minute and careful observation of plants in India dates back to a few thousand years. The ancient science of botany was quite developed in its understanding of the plant kingdom, as also in taxonomy. Below we give a glimpse of the various attempts in antiquity to classify plants according to their properties.

The beginning of relationship between humans and plants can be traced back to the prehistoric times. The Indus Valley people used to live in villages, cities and towns, wore clothes, cultivated crops including wheat, barley, millet, dates, vegetables, melon and other fruits and cotton; worshipped trees, glazed their pottery with the juice of plants and painted them with a large number of plant designs. They also knew the commercial value of plants and plant products. There are sufficient indications to show that Agriculture, Medicine, Horticulture, developed to a great extent during the Vedic Period. [UKT ¶]

In the Vedic literature we find a large number of terms used in the description of plants and plant parts, both external features and internal structures; a definite attempt at classification of plants and evidence that use of manure and rotation of crops were practiced for the improvement of fertility of soil and nourishment of plants.[UKT ¶]

Rig Veda aka Rgveda mentions that Vedic peoples had some knowledge about the food manufacture, the action of light on the process and storage of energy in the body of plants. [UKT ¶]

UKT: The Vedic language was quite different from the Classical Sanskrit of Panini. Even though some scholars would use the hyphenated word "Vedic-Sanskrit", the language seems to be allied to the Tibeto-Burman (Tib-Bur) family of languages and not to Indo-European (IE) language family to which Sanskrit belongs. -- UKT121221

In the post-Vedic Indian literature there is enough evidence to show that botany developed as an independent science on which was based the science of medicine (as embodied in the Charaka and Susruta Samhitas), Agriculture (as embodied in the Krsi-Parasara) and Arbori-Horticulture (as illustrated in the Upavana-vinoda as a branch of Botany). This science was known as the Vriksayurveda, also compiled by Parasara.

Plants in Vedas

The most celebrated plant that finds frequent mention in the Rgveda and later Samhitas is the Soma plant. The Vedic Indians hail Soma as the Lord of the forest (vanaraja). The botanical identity of Soma plant, however, has not been decided to this day. The probable candidates are Ephedra (a Gymnosperm); Sarcostemma (flowering plant); and mushroom (a fungus).

UKT: The Bur-Myan {þé-ræÑ} '{þé}-liquid', and {þé-o:} 'pots of {þé}' which were offered to the Ari monks of the pre-Pagan period, roughly before the 11th century, probably refer to the Soma juice. If so, it could very well be the juice of the toddy-palm which is non-alcoholic as soon as it is collected from the palm, but which ferments during the day to become a strong wine in the evening. Distillation of fermented {þé-ræÑ} produces {þé-rak} 'brandy'. The two word-combination {þé-ræÑ þé-rak} means 'alcoholic drink' and the Theravada monks are forbidden to drink it. CAUTION: Don't say {þé:} 'urine'.
   The drinking of Soma is comparable to the drinking of sacramental or communion wine, or kosher wine at Christian and Jewish religious services. Of course, no Christian nor Jew would drink Ephedra or mushroon. To imagine the Vedic people drinking such drinks is demeaning to the ancient religions. -- UKT121222

The second most mentioned plant was peepal or the Asvattha (Ficus religiosa) during the Vedic period. The Rgveda refers to utensils and vessels fashioned out of the wood of the Asvattha tree.

Some of the other trees that find mention in the Vedas are:

(i) Silk cotton (Salmalia malabaricum);
(ii) Khadira (Acacia catechu)
(iii) Simsupa (Dalbergia sissoo);
(iv) Vibhitaka (Terminalia bellerica);
(v) Sami (Prosopis sp.); and
(vi) Plaksa (Ficus infectoria);
- lksu (sugar cane – Saccharum offcinarum) finds a mention as a cultivated plant in the Atharvaveda, Maitaryani Samhita, and other texts.

The Vedic Indians knew about many flower-bearing and fruit-bearing plants, like Palasa (Butea monosperma), two varieties of lotus – white (pundarika) and blue (puskara), white lily (kumuda), cucumber (urvaruka), jujuba (Zizypus jujuba), udumbara (Ficus glomerata), kharjura (Phoenix dactylifera) and bilva (Aegle marmelos), etc.

Written records, in the form of manuscripts, are available in Sanskrit and several other Indian languages. Sanskrit literature includes the Vedas, the Upanisadas, and epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. [UKT ¶]

The lay literature includes prose, poetry, and drama of a number of Sanskrit authors like Kalidasa, Magha and Bhavabhuti, in whose works the information on plants is incidental and given by way of comparison. [UKT ¶]

Technical literature comprises medical works like the Charaka and Susruta Samhitas, lexicons like Medininighantu and Amarakosa, as well as the encyclopedic works like Arthasastra and Brhatsamhita. [UKT ¶] 

These works generally give excerpts of botany or what is known as vrksayurveda. In addition, there are a number of exclusive works under the title of Vrksayurveda. Parasara's Vrksayurveda [ "Vŗkşāyurvēda of parāśara "] is supposed to be the most ancient work in actual botany, to have been composed during first century BC and first century AD.

UKT: 121221. The following are excerpts from Wikipedia:
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_botany 121221

An early example of ancient Indian plant classification is found in the Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns from about 3700–3100 BP. Plants are divided into vṛska (trees), osadhi (herbs useful to humans) and virudha (creepers), with further subdivisions. The sacred Hindu text Atharvaveda divides plants into eight classes: visakha (spreading branches), manjari (leaves with long clusters), sthambini (bushy plants), prastanavati (which expands); ekasṛnga (those with monopodial growth), pratanavati (creeping plants), amsumati (with many stalks), and kandini (plants with knotty joints). The Taittiriya Samhita classifies the plant kingdom into vṛksa, vana and druma (trees), visakha (shrubs with spreading branches), sasa (herbs), amsumali (spreading plant), vratati (climber), stambini (bushy plant), pratanavati (creeper), and alasala (spreading on the ground). Other examples of early Indian taxonomy include Manusmriti, the Law book of Hindus, which classifies plants into eight major categories. Elaborate taxonomies also occur in the Charaka Samhitā, Sushruta Samhita and Vaisesika. [11]

Another excerpt from another Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbalism 121224

In India, Ayurveda medicine has used many herbs such as turmeric possibly as early as 1900 BC. [17] Sanskrit writings from around 1500 B.C., such as the Rig Veda, are some of the earliest available documents detailing the medical knowledge that formed the basis of the Ayurveda system. [16] Many other herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda were later described by ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC. The Sushruta Samhita attributed to Sushruta in the 6th century BC describes 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources, and 57 preparations based on animal sources. [18]

Charaka, sometimes spelled Caraka, born c. 300 BC was one of the principal contributors to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India. He is referred to as the Father of Medicine.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charaka 121227
   Most of my Bur-Myan friends and I have never heard of this individual. We have always thought the most famous medical practitioner in Ancient India to be {zi-wa.ka}, personal physician to King Azadathut, who introduced the king to the Gautama Buddha. The Buddha on that full-moon night delivered the {þa-ma.Ña.}-Sutta. -- UKT121227

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_herbology 121227

The first traditionally recognized herbalist is Shénnóng (神农, lit. "Divine Farmer"), a mythical god-like figure, who is said to have lived around 2800 BC. [2] He allegedly tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers. His Shénnóng Běn Cǎo Jīng (神农本草经, Shennong's Materia Medica) is considered as the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine. It classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine.

From the literary evidence it is clear that even in the First Millennium BC, botany was fully systematized and taxonomy well developed.


Casual references to different parts of the plant are found scattered throughout the Rgveda, and almost complete details of plants are found in the Atharvaveda. Here we can say that the Atharvaveda is perhaps the earliest recorded authority on plant morphology. It presents an account of eight types of growth habits of trees. These are:

(1) Visakha (spreading branches);
(2) Manjari (leaves with long clusters);
(3) Sthambini (bushy plants);
(4) Prastanavati (which expands);
(5) Ekasrnga (those with monopodial growth);
(6) Pratanavati (creeping plants);
(7) Amsumati (with many stalks); and
(8) Kandini (plants with knotty joints).

The Taittiriya Samhita and the Vajasenayi Samhita explain that plants comprise mula (root), the tula (shoot), the kanda (stem), the valsa (twigs), puspa (flowers) and phala (fruits). While trees have in addition skandha (the crown), sakha (branches) and parna (leaf). Different kinds of plants are distinguished, namely, vrksa, vana and druma (trees), visakha (shrubs with spreading branches), sasa (a herb), amsumali (a spreading or deliquescent plant), vratati (a climber), stambini (a bushy plant), pratanavati (a creeper), and alasala (those spreading on the ground). The Vrksayurveda of Parasara deals extensively with the morphology of plants. According to Parasara, the vrksangas (parts of plant) are: patra (leaf); puspa (flowers); phala (fruits); mula (root); tvak (bark); kanda (stem); sara (heart-wood); svarasa (sap); niryasa (exudation); kantaka (spines); bija (seed), and praroha (shoot).

Ancient literature has classified the roots on the basis of their growth behavior and structures, like, sakha sipha (root originating from the branches), krsnamuli (black coloured root), sveta muli (coloured root), bahumuli (many roots), tripadi (plant with three main roots), asta padi (plant with eight roots), sthulamula (thick root), suksmamula (thin root) and jatamula (fasciculate root).

Some ancient Sanskrit works also took notice of texture, colour, taste, surface etc. for morphological classification of plants.

• Texture: Lomasa-vasana for hairy stem; mrdu patra for soft leaf; komal patra for tender leaf; and snigdha patra for rough thick leaf.

• Shape: Dirgha patra for long leaf; mandala patra for rotund leaf; and visala patra for broad leaf.

• Colour: Sveta patra for white coloured; rakta patra for red coloured; nila parna for blue coloured; suvarna parna for gold coloured; and dhumra parna for smoke coloured.

• Taste: Svadu patri for sweet leaf; amla patra for sour leaf; katu patra for leaves with spines; and tiksna patra (hot taste).

• Surface: Romasa patri for with hairy outgrowth; and randhra patri for leaf with holes; and valka patri for bark-like.

• Leaflets: Ekapatrika for one leaflet; dvipatrika for two leaflets; tripatrika for three leaflets; catuspatrika for four leaflets; pancapatrika for five leaflets; saptaparni for seven leaflets; and bahupatrika for a number of leaflets.

There are some other botanical terms, which can be identified with the modern terms, like pedicel (stalk of flowers) is called prasava bandhana (means the attachment to the mother plants); puspacchada, jalaka (calyx); puspadala (corolla); kesara (androecium); paraga (pollen); and varataka (pistil). Some examples about inflorescences are also present in ancient texts like, manjari (racemose inflorescences), stabaka, guccaka (cymose inflorescences), srihastini (helicoid cyme), chatra (umbellate), etc.

Plant Physiology

Udayana, in his Prthviniraparyam, says that in plants there is life, death, sleep, waking, disease, drugging, transmission of specific characters by means of ova, movement towards what is favourable and away from what is unfavourable. [UKT ¶]

The Buddhist logician Dharmottara in his Nyayavindutika records the phenomenon of sleep in certain plants, in the form of contraction of their leaves during night. [UKT ¶]

UKT insert: •
One of the Hinayana sect, a branch of Sthavirandin developed from Vatsiputriyah. Dharmottara is the Buddhist logician writing, an important commentary called the Nyayabindu-tika on Dharmakirtis Nyayabindu. -- http://www.purifymind.com/glossaryD.htm 121222
Short Treatise of Logic (Nyaya-Bindu Dharmakirti) -- http://www.freesangha.com/forums/buddhist-dialectics/short-treatise-of-logic-(nyaya-bindu-dharmakirti)/msg8626/?PHPSESSID=6qstqv5v9dcmfk5a778qkk0883#msg8626 - 121222

Gunaratna, in his Saddarsana-samuccaya, enumerates different characteristics of life:

(1) the plant passes through three stages of infancy, youth and age;
(2) they have regular growth;
(3) their various kinds of movement are conditioned by sleep, walking, response to touch or need for support;
(4) plants deal with wounds and laceration sustained by their organs and make use of drugs to overcome wounds as well as diseases;
(5) assimilation of food from the soil is determined by requirements of plans for growth;
(6) recovery from wounds and diseases by the application of drugs;
(7) dryness or the opposite due to sap; and
(8) special food favourable for impregnation.

Sankaramisra in his Upaskara mentions that after a wound or laceration, there is natural recuperation due to the growth of organs (bhagnaksatasamrohana). The Santiparva of Mahabharata enumerates several physiological principles including the sense of touch, hearing (response to sound), vision, smell, irritability, etc, in respect of plants.


As to the physiology of nourishment, scattered references amply indicate the knowledge that plants receive their nutrients from the soil in the form of solution through the agency of the root. The use of padapa for the root, as already pointed out, is significant. Santiparva explains the phenomenon of ascent of sap in the following lines, "the tree sucks water from its base (root) with the force, and along with air, water is drawn up the tree". Dixona and Joly explained this theory only in 1894.

The nutritive value of absorbed water and its role in plant metabolism is clearly illustrated in the following lines of the Santiparva "the water absorbed by the plant is converted into food under the influence of agni (energy) and maruta (air), and due to this, plant can grow".

Vrksayurveda of Parasara, explained the food preparation in the leaf. According to Parasara, "the watery sap obtained from earth (parthivarasa) is transported from root up to the leaf through syandana (xylem). There it gets digested with the help of chlorophyll (ranjakena pacyamanat) into nutritive substance and a by-product (malam)".

Several Sanskrit texts also describe the movements of the plants. According to literature, plants show movements towards a direction, which is favourable to them, and move away from a direction unfavourable to them.

The sensitiveness property of the touch-me-not plant (Mimosa pudica) is also clearly described in some ancient texts.

The concept of flowering at different times during a day – morning or evening – has also been observed by the ancient botanists.

Plant Pathology

Many references to plant diseases and their treatment are also available in the Vedic literature. According to S. Sundara Rajan, the Atharvaveda explains the destruction of corn due to insect pests. Vinaya, the famous Buddhist text, describes the blight and mildew diseases. A much later text, Sukraniti, gives a detailed account of danger to grains from various agents such as fire, snow, worm, insect, etc. Gunaratna, in his Saddarsanasamuccaya, observes that plants are afflicted by diseases, displacement or dislocation of flowers, fruits, leaves and barks in the same way as the human body suffers from jaundice, dropsy, emaciation, stunted growth of finger, nose, etc., and respond to treatment like human bodies.

According to Varahamihira, plant diseases are caused by cold climate (low temperature), wind (dryness) and sun (heat) and indicated by the yellowness of the leaves, non- or under-development of buds, dryness of the branches and the exudation of the sap. He also described the treatment: the paste of ghee, vidanga (Embelia ribes) and mud kneaded in the infected parts and then diluted milk should be sprinkled over the area. Agnipurana prescribes a mixture of vidanga with rice, fish and flesh. Agnipurana and Brhatsamhita suggested following treatment when a tree is not producing flowers and fruits: the hot decoction prepared of kulattha (horsegram, Dolichos biflorus), masa (blackgram, Phaseolus mungo), mudga (greengram Phaseolus radiatus), tila (Sesamum indicum) and yava (barley) in milk. Cool the mixture and sprinkle it on trees.

Consciousness in Plants

Ancient Indians believed that plants as living organisms possess consciousness, but it remained dormant and was not comparable to Indian animals. Manu writes that the plant has a latent consciousness, which is capable of perceiving both pleasure and pain.

In Mahabharata, Santiparva explains that the plant has life, touch, feel, smell, vision, and hearing senses.


The technical term used for seed is vija. The seed is enclosed in a vessel called vijakosa. The endosperm is called sasya and the cotyledon vijapatra. Parasara used the term vijamatrka to denote cotyledon and recognizes monocotyledonous (ekamatrkavija) and dicotyledonous (dvimatrkavija) seeds.

Germination of a seed is called ankurodbheda, which means sprouting of the seed to life; ankura means seedling. According to Susruta, proper season, good soil, requisite supply of water and good seeds are required for germination of the seed.

Gunaratna observes in his commentary that the seeds of vata (Ficus indicum), pippala (Ficus religiosa), nimbu (Melia azadirachta), etc. are germinated during the rainy season under the influence of dew and air.

Parasara also gives the descriptive commentary on the process of germination in Vrksayurveda. According to Parasara, "during the sprouting up of the seedling (praroha), its body receives nourishment from the cotyledons. This nourishment enables the seedling to grow until its root develops and comes of its own. The cotyledons dry up as soon as the seedling is able independently to receive nourishment directly from the soil of the earth".

Reproduction, Sex and Heredity

Ancient Indian literature also deals with sex, genetics, and reproduction of plants by fruits, seeds, roots, cuttings, graftings, plant apices and leaves. [UKT ¶]

Buddha Ghosa, in his Sumangala-vilasini, a commentary on the Digha Nikaya, describes some of these methods under such terms as mula-vija (root seed), khandabija (cuttings), phaluvija (joints), agravija (budding) and bija-bija (seed). Atharvaveda and Arthasastra describe the propagation by seed (bija-bija or vijaruha) and bulbous roots (kandavija), respectively. The method of cutting (skandhavija) is described in the Arthasastra, Brhatsamhita and Sumangala-vilasini in the case of sugar cane, jackfruit, blackberry, pomegranate, vine, lemon tree, asvattha (Ficus religiosa), nyagrodha (Ficus bengalensis), udumbara (Ficus glomerata) and several others. [UKT ¶]

UKT: It is accepted that the great Theravada commentator Buddhaghosa was not born in SriLanka. He was supposedly born in Magadha - a Tib-Bur speaking region. He was supposed to have been born a Brahmin. But I have read somewhere that he was from Thaton which would make him a Mon. He wrote Visuddhimagga 'The Path of Purification' approx. 430 BC. in SriLanka. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visuddhimagga 121222

Some ideas related to sexuality in plants are noticeable in the Harita and Charak Samhitas. Charak recognized male and female individuals in the plant called Kutaja (Hollerhina antidysenterica), and the male categories of plants bearing white flowers, large fruit and tender leaves and the female categories characterized by yellow flowers, small fruits, short stalk, etc. [UKT ¶]

The Rajanighantu mentions the existence of male and female plants in the plant Ketaki (Pandanus odoratissimus). The male plant is called sitaketaki, and the female is called svarna ketaki. Regarding heredity, Charaka and Susruta mention that the fertilized ovum contains in miniature all the organs of the plants, for example the bamboo seed containing in miniature the entire structure of the bamboo tree, and further that the male sperm cell have minute elements derived from each of its organs and tissues. Such ideas closely resemble Darwin's 'gemmules'.

Plant Taxonomy & Nomenclature

In ancient times, plants were named to mark:

1. Special associations, like bodhidruma (Ficus religiosa), asoka (Saraca indica) and Sivasekhara (Datura).

2. Special properties such as medicinal, domestically useful, etc., like dadrughna (Cassia fistula), arsoghna (Amorphophallus campanulatus), kusthanasini (somaraji), dantadhavana (Acacia catechu), karpasa (cotton) and lekhana (reed).

3. Morphological characteristics, e.g. shape of leaf, number of leaflets in a compound leaf, shape and colour of flowers, etc., like kisaparni (Achyranthes sp.), asvaparnaka (Shorea robusta), pancangula (Ricinus sp.), tripatra, saptaparna, vakrapuspa (Sesbania grandiflora) and satamuli (asparagus sp.).

4. Local association and environmental association, like saubira (Zizyphus jujuba), magadhi (Jasmine), vaidehi (Pepper), jalaja, pankeruha (lotus) and maruvaka (Ocimum sp.).

5. Other peculiarities, like vakrapuspa (plant having curved flowers), vranari (enemy of boils) for the plant Sesbania grandiflora; kantaphala (having spiny fruits), ghantapuspa (possessing bell-shaped flowers) and mahamohi (great intoxicator) for the plant Datura alba.

According to S. Sundara Rajan, in the ancient Indian texts, the nomenclature of the plants was generally based on the plant's botanical characters (paricaya prjnapikasamjna) and their therapeutic properties (guna prajnapikasamjna).

Classification of Plants

Plants were classified in accordance with three distinct principles, botanical (udbhida), medicinal (virecanadi) and dietetic (annapanadi).

The Rgveda divides plants roughly into three broad classes, namely, Vrska (tree), Osadhi (herbs useful to humans) and Virudh (creepers). Plants are further subdivided into Visakha (shrubs), Sasa (herbs), Vratati (climbers), Pratanavati (creepers) and Alasala (spreading on the ground). All grasses are separately classified as Trna, flowering plants are Puspavati, and the fruit bearing ones are Phalavati. Leafless plants are placed under the group, Karira. The Atharvaveda has classified plants into various categories based on their morphological characters and other properties, such as Prasthanavati (spreading), Sthambini (bushy), Ekasugna (with single whorl of calyx), amsumati (having many shoots), Kandini (jointed), Visakha (having extending branches), Jiivala (lively), Nagharisa (harmless) and Madhumati (very sweet).

Some ancient scientists, like Manu, Charaka and Udayana, etc. also classified the plants in various classes.

Manu divided plants under eight classes as follows:

1. Osadhi – plants bearing abundant flowers and fruits, but withering away after fructification, e.g. rice, wheat.

2. Vanaspati – plants bearing fruits without evident flowers.

3. Vrksa – tress bearing both flowers and fruits.

4. Guccha – bushy herbs

5. Gulma – succulent shrubs

6. Trna – grasses

7. Pratana – creepers which spread their stems on the ground

8. Valli – climbers and entwiners.

 According to Charaka and Susruta Samhita the plants are categorized into four classes:

1. Vanaspati – which bear fruits but not flowers,

2. Vrksa or vanaspatya – which bear both fruits and flowers,

3. Virudh – which creep on the ground or entwine,

4. Osadhi – annual herbs which wither away after fructification).

Susruta subdivides Virudhs into two groups, pratanavatya (creepers with spreading stem on the grounds) and gulminya (succulent herbs), and Charaka subdivides Virudhs into lata (creeper), gulma and osadhis into annuals or perennials bearing fruits and grasses which go without fruits. He further divided the plants into 50 groups based on their physiological actions and diseases they cure, and flowering plants into the following seven heads based on dietetic principles:

1. Sukadhanya (cereals),

2. Samidhanya (pulses),

3. Saka varga (pot herbs),

4. Phala varga (fruits),

5. Harita varga (vegetable),

6. Ahayogi varga (oils), and

7. Iksu varga (sugarcane).

The Vaisesikas classify plants under seven heads, e.g. Vrksa, Trna, Osadhi, Gulma, Lata, Avatana and Vanaspati. Defining the characteristics of the various groups Udayana's Kiranavali, remarks that Vrksas are plants with trunk, branches, flowers and fruits; Trnas are exemplified by ulupa like plant; Osadhis are plants like kaluma which die after fruition; Gulmas are plant like bhata, latas are represented by kusmanda, a species of Cucurbita; Avatanas are plants like ketaki;i and Vanaspatis are trees which produce fruits without flowers.

According S. Sundara Rajan, the Vanausadhivarga of Amarakosa identifies plants under three categories, mushrooms (citra, aticatra and phalghna), parasites (Vanda and Vrksadani) and epiphytes (Vrksaruha and jivantika).

In his Vrksayurveda, Parasara developed a more elaborate classification. Parasara mentions two types of plants: Dvimatrka (Dicotyledons) and Ekamatrka (Monocotyledons). He further classified plants into families (gana vibhaga), like:

1. Samiganiya (Leguminosea) – This family covers samivrksa, a plant bearing simbiphala, (legume or pod, compound leaves held on a common stalk and leaflets arranged like a feather). Flowers are hypogynous (puspakrantabijadhara) and five-petalled, with gamosepalous calyx and an androecium of 10 stamens. This family has three subtypes: vakra-puspa, vikarnika-puspa and suka-puspa.

2. Puplikagalniya (Rutaceae) – In this family the plants bear spines, odoriferous leaves and winged petioles, flowers are hypogynous (tundamandala) with free petals and stamens. Fruits formed of superior ovary (puspa-krantaphala) contain hairy succulent flesh and multiple seeds. Family has two subtypes: kesaraka and maluraphala.

3. Svastikaganiya (Cruciferae) – According to the name, the shape of the calyx looks like a svastika. The flower has four sepals, four petals and six stamens, and a superior ovary (tundamandala). In the inflorescence flowers are arranged in rows.

4. Tripuspaganiya (Cucurbitaceae) – The plant is epigynous (kumbhamandala), which are sometimes unisexual. The flower has five united sepals and petals and three stamens and a style with three-pointed stigma (trisirsavarata). The ovary is trivartaka (tri-locular).

5. Mallikaganiya (Apocynaceae) – Plants having mixed inflorescence and which are hermaphrodite (samanga), calyx and corolla are united having five stamens, epipetalous (avyoktakesara). The seeds having long fine hairs (tulapucchasamanvita).

6. Kurcapuspaganiya (Compositeae) – The flowers are sessile and borne on a common axis, surrounded by a common calyx and look like a brushy head (kurcakara). The ovary is inferior (puspasirsakabijadhara).


Plant Anatomy

Detailed study of internal structure of plants becomes possible only after the invention of the compound microscope. [UKT ¶]

UKT: Is Lalit Tiwari implying that the "compound microscope" or a similar instrument was unknown in the Rgveda  time-period? It is a fact that we know very little of the Vedic people of the Indus-Saraswati valley civilization. The position would be the same as saying that the Vedic peoples were illiterates because no writing system similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphic of the Nile river-valley or the Sumerian cuneiform of the Euphrates-Tigris river-valley has been discovered so far in the Indus-Saraswati river-system. The three river-valley civilizations were contemporaries, and many ancient cities were far larger and more elaborate than those of the other two systems.

Another river-valley system contemporary to the Indus-Saraswati was that the Chindwin-Irrawaddy of the Ancient Pyus of Myanmarpré. It is stated in the Glass-Palace chronicles that King Abiraza had come to Upper Myanmarpré to found the city of Tagaung long before the time-period of Gautama Buddha. Obviously there were indigenous people already there. And who could they be? I opine that they were Pyus or some other Tibeto-Burman speaking people who because of their non-warlike nature had accepted Abiraza to found a kingdom amongst them. -- UKT121218

In the Rgveda, daru or the wood is distinguished from the softer outer part of a tree. Taittiriya Samhita separates the outer part into valka (outer) and vakala (inner) bark. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad shows more detailed picture in this field. According to Brhadaranyaka Upanisad the five regions present in a plant are:

tvak (skin or bark),
mamsa (soft tissues);
asthi (wood or xylem),
majja (pith), and
snayu (fibres both xylem and sclerenchyma).

The Vrksayurveda of Parasara gives more detailed and clearer description of the plant anatomy. According to Parasara, there are tissue systems meant for the transportation of nutrients and sap. The whole of the vascular system has been given the name sarvasrotamsi (that which helps in the flow). This is divided into two categories, first is syandana and second in sirajala, which is obviously xylem and phloem, respectively. He explains that the syandana is involved in the transportation of rasa, which is absorbed from the Earth (Prthvi) to all parts of the plant body and sirajala (pl. sirajalani) helps in the re-distribution of nutrition from the leaf to other parts of a plant.

The most remarkable anatomical observation made by Parasara relates to a detailed description of the plant-cell. He gives a more detailed study than Robert Hooke who discovered the cell in 17th century. [UKT ¶]

UKT, 121223:
based on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hooke 121222,
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/leeuwenhoek.html 121223, and what my father U Tun Pe (an avid reader in English) had told me of Leewenhoek as I was growing up. It was to my father that I owe for my curiosity and for close observation of things around me.  (Incidentally, results of Theravada Buddhistic meditation - "Wipathana".)
   Compound microscopes (using more than one lens) of the Western World, had been invented by Robert Hooke in England. Hooke discovered the cell, and coined the name.
   If Hook had needed his invention the microscope to discover the cell, what did Parasara has? Maybe Parasara had a single lens microscope similar to that invented by Leeuwenhoek (ca 1670), which could magnify over 200 times whilst the early compound microscopes could magnify only to about 20 to 30 times.
   Yet Antony van Leewenhoek because of his lack of education, and because of his family background (tradesmen), had no fortune, and knew no Latin -- the language of intelligentsia -- but only his Dutch language, was at first rejected by the Royal Society in London. Yet with skill, diligence, an endless curiosity, and an open mind free of the scientific dogma of his day,  made some of the most important discoveries of biology: bacteria, free-living and parasitic protists, sperm cells, blood cells, microscopic nematodes and rotifers, etc.  He wrote in a letter of June 12, 1716: 

". . . my work, which I've done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof. "

Parasara notes that the internal structure of the leaf consists of innumerable compartments, which are filled with the sap. They are the storehouse of sap (rasasrayah) and covered by a boundary-cell wall or cell-membrane (kalavestana). The structure has five elemental principles (pancabhautika gunasamanvita) as well as a colouring principle (ranjakayukta), and cant be visible to the naked eye. The thin boundary originates from a fluid (kalaladupajayate), which is called protoplasm by the modern botanists.

Medical Botany

The bulk of the Ayurvedic medicines belong to the plant kingdom. And all the Ayurvedic texts deal with botanical aspects, mainly the identification and categorization of plants as source of drugs. The Charaka Samhita has a chapter titled Vibhagavidya, dealing with the classification of plants and animals. The Susruta samhita, the second Ayurvedic classic, also deals with several aspects of botany such as morphology and taxonomy. Susruta also provides classification of plants on the basis of medicinal properties.


Thus we see that the ancient scientists did realize the need to classify plants according to their various properties. In some cases they come close to modern calcifications. Some of the descriptions, especially by Parashar, make one wonder if they could magnify the views of plant parts for more detailed study.


Chowdhury, K. A. 1971. Botany: Prehistoric Period. In A Concise History of Science in India (Eds.) D. M. Bose, S. N. Sen and B.V. Subbarayappa. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy. Pp. 371-375.

Ghose, A. K. 1971. Botany: The Vedic and Post-Vedic Periods. In A Concise History of Science in India (Ed.) D. M. Bose, S. N. Sen and B.V. Subbarayappa. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy. Pp. 375-392.

Majumdar, G. P. 1982. The history of botany and allied sciences. In Studies in History of Science in India (Ed.) Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. New Delhi: Editorial Enterprise. Pp. 356-411.

Rajan, S. Sundara. 2001. Plant science. In Medicine and Life Sciences in India (Ed.) B.V.Subbarayappa. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Pp.242-270.

See my note on:
Thoughts of Plant classification in Ancient China : a preliminary study.


Contents of this page

The Beginnings and Developments in the West

UKT: Now, let's continue with Lawrence.

The contemporary status of any facet of science is better comprehended and oriented by the student who has a knowledge of its beginnings and development. The history of plant classification is a fascinating subject because one learns not only of the men responsible for it and of their contributions, but also that from all these contributions there is being evolved a classification of plants based on biological facts. From this historical survey one should expect to learn not only of the progress of science but also of the persons who effected that progress. By acquainting oneself with these men as persons one finds that their scientific contributions become of more lasting interest.

Many different classifications of plants have been proposed. They are recognizable as being or approaching one of three types: artificial, natural, and phylogenetic. [UKT ¶]

An artificial system classifies organisms for convenience, primarily as an aid to identification, and usually by means of one or a few characters. A natural system reflects the situation as it is believed to exist in nature and utilizes all information available at the time. A phylogenetic system classifies organisms according to their evolutionary sequence, it reflects genetic relationships, and it enables one to determine at a glance the ancestors or derivatives (when present) of any taxon. The present state of man's knowledge of nature is too scant to enable one to construct a phylogenetic classification, and the so-called phylogenetic systems represent approaches toward an objective and in reality are mixed and are formed by the combination of natural and phylogenetic evidence.

UKT: Lawrence states above that "The present state of man's knowledge of nature is too scant to enable one to construct a phylogenetic classification". For the present state of affairs Wikipedia states "Phylogenetic nomenclature is currently not regulated, but the International Code of Phylogenetic Nomenclature (PhyloCode) is intended to regulate it once it is ratified." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogenetic_nomenclature 121219.

Artificial systems are not commonly in current use. The classical example is the so-called sexual system of Linnaeus, by which plants are classified by the number and arrangement of sexual parts. A similar usage of artificial is found in the well-known artificial keys where taxa are segregated by pairs of single or few characters and the sequence of [{p014}] the taxa in the key is usually wholly unrelated to their natural or phyletic groupings.

Natural systems of classifications (or those alleged to be natural) have existed since before the time of Linnaeus, and the philosophy on which they were based remained dominant until displaced by those based on modern concepts of evolution founded on the works of Darwin and his successors. [UKT ¶]

The philosophy of pre-Darwinian naturalists was essentially that a natural system and a Divine plan were the same, for, accepting the Dogma of Special Creation, they believed that a Divine power created all nature according to a perfect plan which man could discover to a degree. To them, a natural system was one in accord with nature, and was one which represented life as it occurred in nature.

UKT: 121221

The word "Divine" came from the same root as {dé-va.} or {nût} 'someone who must be worshipped'. The word {dé-va.} is of Pali/Sanskrit origin, whereas {nût} is purely Burmese for those entities which must be worshipped out of respect, fear, or both. The word "Divine" and "Devil" are of the same root.

The Bur-Myan word is a combination of {dé-va.} & {nût} as {nût-dé-wa} to mean some entity who can create. Thus the Christian God the Creator is a super {nût-dé-wa} or a {ma.ha-dé-va} of the Hindu religionists. The {ma.ha-dé-va} is the Hindu Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva. It should be noted that in the early hymns of Rig Veda, such as Gayatri Mantra, the Hindu Trinity was not mentioned. Perhaps the religion of the Vedic people was something different from the present day Hindu religion. If we were to judge the importance of Vedic deities by the number of hymns dedicated them, the first was the King of the Deities (now Indra), the Messenger between the deities and the humans (now Agni), and Giver of Tranquility to the Mind (now to Soma the plant and/or Soma the intoxicating drink).

Theravada Buddhism ignores the concept of the Creator as nothing but a figment of imagination which has no substantial basis. -- UKT121220.


Contents of this page

Dogma of Special Creation

UKT: Lawrence writes:  in p048-049, that "... the theory of Special Creation ... accompanied [{p049}] by the corollary that life forms were immutable." 

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_creation 121220

In Creationism, special creation is a theological doctrine which states that the universe and all life in it originated in its present form by unconditional fiat or divine decree.

Roman Catholicism uses the phrase in a different sense: to refer to the doctrine of immediate or special creation of each human soul.

In the creationist use of the phrase, special creation adheres to a literal interpretation of the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, accepting it as an accurate historical account of the creation of the universe in essentially its present form over the course of six 24-hour days. Special creation was the dominant theory of life's origins in the western world from the 16th century until the middle of the 19th century when it was supplanted by evolutionary thought. [1] [2]

Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research defined "special creation" as being creation using supernatural processes:

We do not know how the Creator created, [or] what processes He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator. [3]

Dennis Jensen of the American Scientific Affiliation states that special creation means that complex living things did not descend from simpler ones but were created independently." [4]

James B. Stenson writes that for fundamentalists, special creation follows from a literal reading of the Genesis account; there is a "special creation" of each separate kind in six 24-hour days, starting a few thousand years ago. [5]

In The Mystery of Life's Origin, Charles B. Thaxton argues for "Special Creation by a Creator beyond the Cosmos", and asserts that special creation holds "that the source that produced life was intelligent". [6] 

In Catholicism

The Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a decree ratified by Pope Pius X on June 30, 1909 that special creation only applied to man, not to the other species. [5] [UKT ¶]

In 2004, the International Theological Commission, then under the presidency of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, published a paper in which it accepts the current scientific accounts of the history of the universe commencing in the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago and of the evolution of all life on earth including humans from the micro organisms commencing about 4 billion years ago. The Vatican teaches that God acted indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, which prepared the way for the moment of transition to the spiritual with the special creation of the human soul. This special creation, the Vatican says, established the basis for a divine intimacy which embraces every single human person from the first moment of his or her existence. [7] 

UKT: End of the above Wikipedia article. Now another Wikipedia article:

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmutation_of_species 121220

Transmutation of species was a term used by Jean Baptiste Lamarck in 1809 for his theory that described the altering of one species into another, and the term is often used to describe 19th century evolutionary ideas that preceded Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. [UKT ¶ ]

Other 19th century proponents of pre-Darwinian evolutionary ideas included Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Robert Grant, and Robert Chambers who anonymously published the book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Opposition in the scientific community, led by influential scientists like the anatomists Georges Cuvier and Richard Owen and the geologist Charles Lyell, to these early theories of evolution was intense. The debate over them was an important stage in the history of evolutionary thought and would influence the subsequent reaction to Darwin's theory.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_evolutionary_thought 121221

Evolutionary thought, the conception that species change over time, has roots in antiquity, in the ideas of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese as well as in medieval Islamic science. [UKT ¶]

With the beginnings of biological taxonomy in the late 17th century, Western biological thinking was influenced by two opposed ideas. [UKT ¶]

One was essentialism, the belief that every species has essential characteristics that are unalterable, a concept which had developed from medieval Aristotelian metaphysics, and that fit well with natural theology.[UKT ¶] 

The other one was the development of the new anti-Aristotelian approach to modern science: as the Enlightenment progressed, evolutionary cosmology and the mechanical philosophy spread from the physical sciences to natural history. Naturalists began to focus on the variability of species; the emergence of paleontology with the concept of extinction further undermined the static view of nature. In the early 19th century, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed his theory of the transmutation of species, the first fully formed theory of evolution.

In 1858, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace published a new evolutionary theory that was explained in detail in Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859). Unlike Lamarck, Darwin proposed common descent and a branching tree of life, meaning that two very different species could share a common ancestor. The theory was based on the idea of natural selection, and it synthesized a broad range of evidence from animal husbandry, biogeography, geology, morphology, and embryology.

The debate over Darwin's work led to the rapid acceptance of the general concept of evolution, but the specific mechanism he proposed, natural selection, was not widely accepted until it was revived by developments in biology that occurred during 1920s through the 1940s. Before that time most biologists argued that other factors were responsible for evolution. [UKT ¶]

Alternatives to natural selection suggested during " the eclipse of Darwinism" (circa 1880 to 1920) included inheritance of acquired characteristics (neo-Lamarckism), an innate drive for change (orthogenesis), and sudden large mutations ( saltationism). [UKT ¶]

The synthesis of natural selection with Mendelian genetics during the 1920s and 1930s founded the new discipline of population genetics. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, population genetics became integrated with other biological fields, resulting in a widely applicable theory of evolution that encompassed much of biology — the modern evolutionary synthesis.

Following the establishment of evolutionary biology, studies of mutation and variation in natural populations, combined with biogeography and systematics, led to sophisticated mathematical and causal models of evolution. Paleontology and comparative anatomy allowed more detailed reconstructions of the history of life. [UKT ¶]

After the rise of molecular genetics in the 1950s, the field of molecular evolution developed, based on protein sequences and immunological tests, and later incorporating RNA and DNA studies. The gene-centered view of evolution rose to prominence in the 1960s, followed by the neutral theory of molecular evolution, sparking debates over adaptationism, the units of selection, and the relative importance of genetic drift versus natural selection. [UKT ¶]

UKT 121222
I have never heard of Archaea until recently. I am quite used to the bacteria because of my interest in tropical infections (pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria), and also because of microscopic work using various chemical stains. Then I came to read about the "bacteria" that lives in hot springs and other harsh environments. My ignorance of the Archaea was because these organisms were first recognized as  separate from bacteria only in 1977. Read about them in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaea 121222

In the late 20th century, DNA sequencing led to molecular phylogenetics and the reorganization of the tree of life into the three-domain system. In addition, the newly recognized factors of symbiogenesis and horizontal gene transfer introduced yet more complexity into evolutionary theory. Discoveries in evolutionary biology have made a significant impact not just within the traditional branches of biology, but also in other academic disciplines (e.g., anthropology and psychology) and on society at large. [1]

UKT: More in the Wikipedia article

Contents of this page

UKT notes


From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltation_biology -- 121228

In biology, saltation (from Latin, saltus, "leap") is a sudden change from one generation to the next, that is large, or very large, in comparison with the usual variation of an organism. The term is used for occasionally hypothesized, nongradual changes (especially single-step speciation) that are atypical of, or violate, standard concepts - gradualism - involved in modern evolutionary theory.

Saltation was the idea that new species arise as a result of large mutations. It was seen as a much faster alternative to the Darwinian concept of a gradual process of small random variations being acted on by natural selection. It was popular with early geneticists such as Hugo de Vries, who along with Carl Correns helped rediscover Gregor Mendel's laws of inheritance in 1900, William Bateson, a British zoologist who switched to genetics, and early in his career Thomas Hunt Morgan. Some of these geneticists developed it into the mutation theory of evolution. [1] [2]

Saltation does not fit into contemporary evolutionary theory, [3] but there are some prominent proponents, including Carl Woese. Woese, and colleagues, suggested that the absence of RNA signature continuum between domains of bacteria, archaea, and eukarya constitutes a primary indication that the three primary organismal lineages materialized via one or more major evolutionary saltations from some universal ancestral state involving dramatic change in cellular organization that was significant early in the evolution of life, but in complex organisms gave way to the generally accepted Darwinian mechanisms.[4]

Polyploidy (most common in plants but not unknown in animals) is considered a type of saltation[5]. Polyploidy meets the basic criteria of saltation in that a significant change (in gene numbers) results in speciation in just one generation. Mammalian liver cells are typically polyploidal, but they are not part of the germ line.

UKT: More in the Wikipedia article.

Go back saltation-note-b

Contents of this page

Thoughts of Plant classification in Ancient China:
a preliminary study

by Chen Chia-Jue , Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, http://www.jse.ac.cn/Abstract_old.aspx?id=1767 121220

UKT: My apology to my Chinese neighbours: Whenever my thoughts turned to India, its culture and language, my thoughts also went to China, but alas, I couldn't make head or tail of their script. I hope I will be able to learn at least to read and understand their script: I have given up hope of learning to speak. But time is not on my side: I am already 78. -- UKT121220


This article contains the thoughts and a brief description of the historical development of plant classification in ancient China.

In a primitive society our ancestors distinguished the edible and poisonous plants by taste and personal experiences. Such comparitive observations and assessments constituded the emergence of the thoughts of plant classification.

1. In the Spring and Autumn Period (c. 700-500 B. C.) Shih Mo (史墨) suggested that, “Living organisms contain paired factors”. At the end of West Chou Dynasty (c. 400 B.C.), Shih Pai (史伯) maintained, “heterogeneity leads to prosperity, homogeneity leads to extinction” (国语.郑语, Kuo-yu-Cheng-yu). This ancient idea corresponds with the principles of modern genetics.

2. The Logics of Classification of Later Mohists: In the text of Ching Shang (经上, Upper Conon) of Mo Tzu (c. 400-300 B. C.), three types of names were distinguished: . "Ta-ming” (达名 General names), “Lei-ming” (类名 Class-names) and “Si-ming” (私名 Private names). These types of names may include different scope of things, but they all reflect reality objectively. The Later Mohists have touched the Rule of Dichotomy or Excluded Middle (排中律) in reasoning. In the same article it was written that, “Truth is Law. Whatever is true fits with the Law. Whichever matches with truth is correct. Whichever does not agree with truth is incorrect”. It continued, “If one is false, the other may be correct. This is meant that even one is incorrect, it can not be assumed that the other is also incorrect”. The above idea approaches the philosophy and logic method of Plato and his disciple, Aristotle. Inaddition, the Later Mohists emphasized that in analytical studies of natural objects, “One must take them by kinds and group them by nature”. This is to say that we must make comparative analysis of natural objects of the same ranks. Otherwise, the conclusion is useless. For example, in modern taxonomic research, if some workers compare variety with species, their conclusion will not be trustworthy.

3. A series of valuable ideas about classification and nomenclature was brought forth by Hsun Tzu (荀子, c. 278-238 B. C.) in Cheng Ming (正名, Rectification of Names). This is briefly reviewed in the following:

(1) Importance of Nomenclature and Classification: Ne maintained, “Whenever the actual differences of two things are known, two names must be given. They must not be confused ...... when the ranks are not clarified, the similarities and differences not distinguished, the thought becomes the basis of confusion and the action is the source of trouble”.

(2) Relationship between Names and Facts: Hsun Tzu expressed, “A name must refer to the actual thing”. He emphasized, “The position is determined after the acquisition of evidences”.

(3) Regarding the Principle of Classification: Hsun Tzu asserted, “Whatever are similar, put them in the same category. Whatever are different, group them separately. When the species of a monotypic genus expresses fully the generic characteristics, leave it alone. When one species cannot fully explain the characters of that genus, place several related species together. When it is discovered that the characteristics of a monotypic genus and that of a larger genus are not in conflict, then they must be combined”.

Regarding the hierarchy in classification he continued, ” ...... In dealing with the multitude articles of nature, we may treat them inclusively as a whole and call them organisms. So, organism is a generalized term. Within the organismic world we can begin with the simple lowermost ranks and group them upwards into higher ones, stop only when there are no more categories. We may also treat the organisms separately by groups. For example, we may deal only with birds and animals. Even birds and animals are inclusive terms. We can take these and separate them. We may divide them again and again, until there is no more division to be made”.

From the above quotation, we understand that ancient Chinese philosophical thoughts about nature were established two millennia ago. The basic principles of nomenclature and classification was the recognition of similarities for higher heirarchy and differences for lower ranks.

(4) Formation of Name: The thought of “codification of traditional usages” (约 定俗成) was evident in the formation of name. Hsun tzu maintained, “Names are not innate”. “Names may not fit always”, “When a name is supported by traditional usage and defined by regulations, it is the proper one”.

(5) Dialectics in classification was evident: Hsun Tzu maitained, “Things may appear alike, yet belonging to different categories, or they may appear differently, but belonging to the same group. This phenomenon must be recognized. When the appearances of two articles are alike and their natures are different, though grouped together, they represent two entities...... When there are phenotypic variations without genetic differences, the individuals belong to one species”.

(6) Understanding of Variation: Hsun Tzu explained variation by saying, “Phenetic difference without genetic change is called variation”.

From the above quotations, we realize that over two thousand years ago, the ancient philosophers and naturalists of China already have established the principles and deviced the method of nomenclature and classification. Their thoughts laid the foundation of plant classification in ancient China. On account of TIME, they developed the theory without any voluminous practical production. Neverthless, these thoughts exerted definite influence in various kinds of work related to botanical classification, especially in the Pen Ts'ao Kang Mu (本草纲目) of Li Shih-chen (李时珍). 

UKT: End of article

UKT: 121221. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_botany 121221

In ancient China lists of different plants and herb concoctions for pharmaceutical purposes date back to at least the time of the Warring States (481 BC-221 BC). Many Chinese writers over the centuries contributed to the written knowledge of herbal pharmaceutics. The Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD) includes the notable work of the Huangdi Neijing and the famous pharmacologist Zhang Zhongjing. There were also the 11th century scientists and statesmen Su Song and Shen Kuo who compiled learned treatises on natural history, emphasising herbal medicine. [12]

Go back thoughts-classification-note-b

Contents of this page

Vṛkṣāyurveda of Parashara 

-- UKT: 121218

With conversion to Buddhism of Emperor Asoka of India, came rapid advances in medical practices involving medicinal plants. An ancient treatise on plant science "Vrksayurveda of Parasara "A Treatise of Plant Science" tells us the ancient knowledge which undoubted filtered into Myanmarpré.

Vrksayurveda of Parasara A Treatise of Plant Science : Sanskrit Text, English Translation and Notes with Comparative Referenc / Roma Sarkar N.N. Sircar

Sri Satguru Publications , 1996. hardcover. pp. viii + xxxiv + 166, Map, Index 1st Edition The Vrksayurveda ascribed to Parasars is a treatise on plant science in Sanskrit. The date of its composition is yet to be ascertained. The work mainly dwells upon the descriptive botany. The original manuscript was discovered sometimes before 1928. The work is certainly a unique production in the Sanskrit literature.

The following is the abstract by  Prasad GP, Neelima G, Pratap GP, Swamy GK.  Regional Research Institute (Ay), Vijayawada, A.P. -- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18175643 121218

Abstract: Vŗkşăyurvĕda of Parăśara is a great contribution to the Botany in ancient India. N.N. Sircar and Roma sarkar edited this text with English translation. Notes with comparative references of modern botany were added. This book can be placed in all probability in between 1st century B.C to 4th century A.D by its linguistic style. Many scientific branches of Botany including origin of life, ecology, distribution of forests, morphology, classification, nomenclature, histology and physiology were dealt in this ancient work. Though it is presumed that this book was written by Parăśara to teach Botany to preparatory to Ayurvĕda studies to ancient Ayurvĕda students, it is true to the Ayurvĕda personals and other disciplines related to Botany of present day as well. Aim of this article is to attract the attention of all scholars who are related to Ayurvĕda and Botany and to feel the depth of the knowledge of ancient Indian botany.

UKT: Who was Parasara the Botanist? The oldest Parasara was the one connected with Mahabharata. Another one was connected with Astrology. There were three: were they the same? I don't think they were. -- 121224

Go back vrika-ayuveda-note-b

Contents of this page

Zoogeography and language families

-- UKT 121222 

Many years ago, while I was posted at the Bassein College as the Senior Lecturer & Head of Chemistry Dept, I was called on to help my own daughter with her study of Zoogeography. She was taking Zoology major for her B.Sc. degree. The medium of instruction was almost totally in Bur-Myan, and her instructor, U Soe Myint, had a hard time trying to teach using only the books written in Bur-Myan. He made many honest attempts to translate passages from an American text book, and soon my daughter found out that he had made several serious mistakes. She asked me to help, and I found myself going over the whole book with her.

That fortunate instance -- I always look upon such diversions from my main subject (chemistry) to be fortunate -- helps me to understand the distribution of language families such as the IE (Indo-European) and Tib-Bur (Tibeto-Burman). Of course, the plants took a long time to "migrate from one place" to another. Amongst the animals, humans especially in modern times, take only a few generations, within a time-period of a hundred years, to redistribute themselves in a geographic area. The plants needed land-bridges to migrate, whereas we the humans just flew over in matter of hours. But I suspect the two types of migration can be compared.

For comparison I am giving "The Geographical Distribution of Animals" published in 1876 by Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913), co-discover (with Charles Darwin), of the process of Natural Selection". Now I quote, http://publish.uwo.ca/~handford/zoog1.html 121222 :

"Wallace amassed much information first-hand from his explorations in South America and South-East Asia (mainly what is now Indonesia and New Guinea), but the bulk came from a world-wide correspondence with other travellers and naturalists. The result was " The Geographical Distribution of Animals" published in 1876, and it still stands as a useful standard work in the field."

What was the main barrier to plant migration, and you would come up with the answer: "of course, the sea". The main reason for my foray into "Zoography and the Sea: 1"
-- http://publish.uwo.ca/~handford/zoog1.html 121222 .

In the study of language migration, of IE into India where the original languages were Tib-Bur, the word for "horse" is cited as indicative. However I always take such attempts as just indicative, because, animals do change over time just as people do. Their diet of plant and animal materials also changes.

Would a western linguist, not used to "strange" animals of our regions such as the "flying animals" believe in the possible existence of flying {na.ga:}?

Chrysopelea, or more commonly known as the flying snake, is a genus that belongs to the family Colubridae. Flying snakes are mildly venomous, [1] though they are considered harmless because their toxicity is not dangerous to humans. [2] Their range is in Southeast Asia (the mainland, Greater and Lesser Sundas, Maluku, and the Philippines), southernmost China, India, and Sri Lanka. [3] [4] [5] [6] -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysopelea 121222
Watch also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZce35zLrFE 121222

The Westerner would tend to dismiss such mention of strange animals as instances of our superstitions because of our backwardness! Now back to "Zoography and the Sea: 2" -- http://publish.uwo.ca/~handford/zoog2.html 121222 . Much of what follows is from this source:

" Suffice to say that on either side of Wallace's Line there are distinctive faunas of freshwater fish, amphibians (frogs & toads), reptiles, birds and mammals. Here I [the lecturer -- not UKT] shall list some of the birds and mammals.

Fauna of Oriental Realm:

• Mammals

" Peculiar to the region of S.E. Asia are five families of mammals:

¤ Cynocephalidae, the flying lemurs - rather strange arboreal forest mammals that bear superficial resemblances to some of the lemurs of Africa and Madagascar;

¤ Hylobatidae, the gibbons - together with the orangutan, these are the only apes outside of Africa (except for us, that is, and we started off in Africa);

UKT 121222: Was Hanuman of Ramayana an orangutan? "Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates; they use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage. The apes have been extensively studied for their learning abilities. There may even be distinctive cultures within populations." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangutan 121222 

¤ Tarsiidae - tarsiers, primitive nocturnal primates, rather resembling the bushbaby, poto and other primitive African primates;

¤ Tupaiidae - tree shrews, rather squirrel-like tree-dwellers, at one time thought to be modern representatives of the ancestors of all primates.

¤ Platacanthomyidae - dormice.

In addition to these groups there are many other forms which are found widespread elsewhere in Asia and the rest of the world (except for Australia), e.g. monkeys, deer, cattle, pigs, cats, dogs.

• Birds

" Although the bird fauna of S.E. Asia is very rich, it shares virtually all of its families with the rest of Eurasia and Africa (though again, not with Australia). It has only one endemic bird family, the Irenidae, the leafbirds.

Fauna of Australasian Realm:

Mammals : pouched and egg-laying mammals

" As is well-known to most of us, this region is almost entirely populated by marsupial (pouched) and monotreme (egg-laying) mammals. Living monotremes are not known from anywhere else in the world, and although there are many marsupials known from South America, they are form an entirely distinct group. There are very few placental mammals,and most of them are known, or believed, to be recent arrivals. The dingo dog came to Australia with man when humans colonised about 40 thousand years ago, and since became feral.

" The Australasian marsupials are very diverse, in appearance, in their diets, habitats and activities: there are 13 families comprising about 180 species, which range in size from the large Red Kangaroo to the tiny marsupial "mice"; in diet from the vegetarian kangaroos, koalas and wombats, to the insectivorous numbat, to the carnivorous Tasmanian Devil, "Native Cats" and Tasmanian "Wolf", to the omnivorous bandicoots; in habitat from grassland wallaroos and kangaroos, to forest-dwelling phalangers; and in activities from the group-living bounding kangaroos to the solitary tree-dwelling koalas.

This great morphological and ecological diversity has produced many forms which superficially resemble placental mammals elsewhere in the world. This independent evolution of similar form under similar conditions is called convergent evolution, and the similar forms are known as "ecological equivalents."

• Birds

There are many families of birds largely restricted to the Australasian region, and we may note in particular:

¤ Casuariidae, cassowaries
¤ Dromaiidae, the emu
¤ Apterygiidae, the kiwis
¤ Loriidae, the lories & lorikeets
¤ Cacatuidae, the cockatoos
¤ a very large number of families of Perching Birds, including:
-- Meliphagidae, honeyeaters
-- Menuridae, lyrebirds
-- Cracticidae, bell magpies
-- Ptilonorhynchidae, bowerbirds
-- Paradisaeidae, birds of paradise

This dramatic phenomenon was very puzzling to 19th.-century biologists, and indeed provided a riveting focus of attention for zoogeographers for generations after Wallace's time. It was not until the widespread acceptance of the idea of Continental Drift that a comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon was provided. [UKT ¶]

Now we know that Australia has had a completely independent evolutionary history from the rest of the world since it split from the rest of Gondwanaland during the late Mesozoic, and it has, like most of the rest of the southern continents, been separated from the great land mass of Asia since long before that.

Thus we now know that, during virtually the entire period when most terrestrial organisms, notably freshwater fish, birds and mammals, were undergoing their main evolutionary radiations (lineage-formation), Australia was widely separated from Asia - indeed from most of the rest of the world. It maintained contacts with Antarctica for a long time, but eventually virtually all terrestrial life was extinguished there.

The great distinctiveness of these biotas then (even though a little blurred now because of the geographical proximity of the great land masses of Australasia and S.E. Asia and the capacity of animals to disperse and migrate) is a striking testimony to the power of the idea of the historical evolution of both the planet and the biota.

If one looks at a map of this part of the world, there is nothing to be seen which would indicate the location of Wallace's Line. But if one looks at a map which shows submarine contours and one locates the edge of the continental shelves at about 200m below current sea-level, then one sees the true extent of the ancient continents clearly: Wallace's Line marks the deep-water channel which marks the outer (south-western) edge of the Sunda shelf which unites Borneo, Bali, Java and Sumatra to the mainland of southeastern Asia. Australia, on the other hand is united broadly with New Guinea.

The deep water between these two large shelf areas (the Sunda and Sahul shelves) is what remains of the massive ocean barrier that for a period in excess of 50 million years kept life on Australia from that of Asia. "

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