Plant life-form

Endoskeleton of an elephant
Plant life-form schemes constitute a way of classifying plants alternatively to the ordinary species-genus-family scientific classification. In colloquial speech, plants may be classified as trees, shrubs, herbs (forbs and graminoids), etc. The scientific use of life-form schemes emphasizes plant function in the ecosystem and that the same function or "adaptedness" to the environment may be achieved in a number of ways, i.e. plant species that are closely related phylogenetically may have widely different life-form, for example Adoxa and Sambucus are from the same family, but the former is a small herbaceous plant and the latter is a shrub or tree. Conversely, unrelated species may share a life-form through convergent evolution.

While taxonomic classification is concerned with the production of natural classifications (being natural understood either in philosophical basis for pre-evolutionary thinking, or phylogenetically as non-polyphyletic), plant-life form classifications uses other criteria than naturalness, like morphology, physiology and ecology.

Life-form and growth-form are essentially synonymous concepts, despite attempts to restrict the meaning of growth-form to types differing in shoot architecture. Most life form schemes are concerned with vascular plants only. Plant construction types may be used in a broader sense to encompass planktophytes, benthophytes (mainly algae) and terrestrial plants.

A popular life-form scheme is the Raunkiær system.

One of the earliest attempts to classify the life-forms of plants and animals was made by Aristotle, whose writings are lost. His pupil, Theophrastus, in Historia Plantarum (c. 350 BC), was the first who formally recognized plant habits: trees, shrubs and herbs.

Some earlier authors (e.g., Humboldt, 1806) did classify species according to physiognomy, but were explicit about the entities being merely plactical classes without any relation to plant function. A marked exception was A. P. de Candolle (1818) attempt to construct a natural system of botanical classification. His system was based on the height of the lignified stem and on plant longevity.

This page was last edited on 15 May 2018, at 10:05 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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