Open main menu

Page:Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1.djvu/23

This page needs to be proofread.

vegetable kingdom is, beyond comparison, superior to all that went before it and though the classes, in which the orders are grouped, be somewhat arbitrary, they are yet so convenient, and generally so easily distinguishable in practice, as to leave little room to doubt that the arrangement as a whole, owes much of its celebrity and its recent almost universal adoption, to that very blemish. Various attempts have however been made to remove that imperfection from this justly admired system, but, so far as I am able to judge, all only serve to show, that had Jussieu adopted any such arrangement, in place of his own, in the first instance, there is much reason to believe the sexual system, with all its imperfections, would still have reigned paramount in Botany.

"Jussieu originally prefixed no names to his classes, and the want of this was much objected to. Those which we have given have been lately proposed by Antoine L. de Jussieu in the Dictionnaire des Sciences Naturelles ; and, although not entirely in unison with the principles of the Greek language, may be adopted as extremely useful, each being so framed as to suggest the structure of the class. Thus the commencement Mono, indicates the Monocotyledones. Epistamineae, &c. having in no part any allusion to a corolla, suggests its absence. Hypocorollae, and the others, allude to the corolla being of one piece, and not of distinct petals, which last is pointed out by names, Epipetalae, &c. The other parts of the names, epi (upon), peri (around), and hypo (under), need no farther explanation.

While engaged in the study of plants alone, it is obviously of little consequence whether we begin, as Jussieu did, by the Acotyledones, or by the Dicotyledones ; but if we view botany as a science that treats of only one of the great kingdoms of nature, and wish to introduce it into a Sy sterna Naturae, we must brino; those portions of each most closely together which are most nearly linked. So that if we commence by Zoology, we must first describe the Mammalia, and end by those of a simple structure, and then take up the most allied of the Acotyledones, and follow the steps of Jussieu. But if we describe vegetables in the first place, we must begin with the Dicotyledones, and finish with the Acotyledones. When, however, a Sy sterna vegetabilium is contemplated without reference to animals, it may perhaps smooth the way to the student if it commence by those more obvious, and, though of more com ilex formation, yet more simple to be comprehended. On this account DeCandolle has reversed the arrangement of Jussieu." (Article Botany Encyl. Brit. 7th Ed. by Dr. Arnott.)