The Natural Plant Families
March 25, 1844
Today is the birthday of the German botanist Adolf Engler.
Adolf developed a system for plant classification now called the Engler System that is still used in some specialty areas today. His masterpiece was Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien (“The Natural Plant Families”).
The concept of Plant Families is useful for gardeners to understand.
Plant families can help with plant identification. Once you know the characteristics of plants in a family, you can narrow down your plant identification options.
Once you know that the Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) is in the Asteraceae Family will look like a Daisy. Flowers in the Campanulaceae Family are often bell- or star-shaped, and the blossoms are blue.
Plant families even tend to have similar seed structures or shapes. Plants in the Cabbage or Brassicaceae Family have little paper-thin membranes that divide the two halves of the seedpod.
And plant families can often have similarities when it comes to seedlings. Monocot families like the Iris and the lily will have seedlings with a single leaf, while dicot families have two seed leaves.