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I'm not a biologist, but that's probably the case with most Wikipedians. From looking at a lot of biological and taxonomic sites it seems that biologists are just as confused as the rest of us about the taxa.

In redrafting this article I was hoping to raise a number of issues that could be applicable to all biological articles. Using Solanales to initiate this approach is a completely arbitrary decision.

One issue that I'm not wanting to address at this point is that of English vs. Latin names. That topic has already had considerable discussion elsewhere. Nevertheles, the comments below work better with the Latin names.

Format convention
A convention is an agreement to all do things the same way, based on two or more viable alternatives. Nothing implicit to these alternatives makes one more right than an other. That some countries drive on the left side of the road, and that other countries drive on the right is a matter of convention. Experience has shown that either system is viable. (The proposal by the Rhinoceros Party of Canada that would have promoted a gradual change whereby in the first phase only large trucks would have changed sides could have encountered some difficulties.)

A format convention will insure that all related articles will look the same; that is a benefit to the reader looking for particular information. The details that I have proposed (including the headings) are subject to change with the understanding that if more people use this model that will have the effect of acceptance. The proposed headings are

  • Placement - This places the taxon in a larger context.
replaced by the taxobox. -Henriette, Sep8, 2002
  • Synonyms and common names - This allows us to cope with some problematic issues.
  • Reference - "citing one's sources" - more about this below.
  • Text - Whatever you want to say; this could be further subdivided.
  • Children - At least the list of taxa in the level immediately below, but there could be more.
  • Problems - Here we can note deviations from what the writer has accepted as a standard. In Solanales I show two families that my source did not show as belonging here. One it placed in another order; the other was not even in its data base.

In a world where authorities differ significantly this becomes more important than ever. For an online encyclopaedia a printed book is not the best information source. Adequate texts are expensive and not easily accessible to everybody. If they are in libraries they are usually in reference sections and can't be taken out. Furthermore, not all libraries will have the same reference. Thus, the first criterion for a general taxonomic reference is that it be on-line.

My current preference and the one that I propose for this kind of reference is for the Integrated Taxonomic Reference System or simply ITIS at I was previously using the Taxonomy Browser of the National Center for Biotechnology Information or NCBI at which also has useful genomic information about taxa; however, the simple fact that it does not show usual "class-order-family-genus" terminology make it more difficult to use. Are there any other candidate sites? Sometimes other sites may be appropriate, or may be used to supplement the information.

The important point is still to cite your source. The date when you checked the source should also be there. The information is constantly changing. When you see an old date here you can always go to the source, and if it hasn't changed, it will be enough to simply alter the date in the article.

-- Eclecticology, Wednesday, May 29, 2002

One source I often use for angiosperms is the Delta database. This is findable with a web search for "families flowering plants" and the genus or family name, as the pages all begin with "The Families of Flowering Plants". Sometimes, unfortunately, the website is inaccessible. -phma

Thanks, I've cross-referenced to that on a couple occasions. Of course, its drawback is that it is limited to flowering plants. See --Eclecticology

ITIS is quite nice, yes, but it's seems to be limited to North-American native species. That's rather limiting to Europeans... like me. Anyhow, I'll update medicinal plants until I run out of steam, and link the lot to herb, too.
Another problem with Delta is that it only goes to genus level, no species. I'll be using multi-language online databases that I can trust. For instance, this site: is quite nice. --Henriette, Sept 6, 2002

Yes, that is one of their shortcomings. They do have ambitious plans, and in time may even have the resources to pull that off. The Species 2000 project is more a world-wide project to which ITIS and 17 others contribute. The source that you mentioned could be good, but you may have noticed a slight tendency toward ethnocentrism among anglophones such that a Swedish language site may not have great appeal to them. Eclecticology 06:19 Sep 7, 2002 (UTC)

Agreed, non-English language sites may not agree with anglophiles, but as long as the data (mostly family/genus/species etc. lists, after all) is sound, there should not be a problem.

Re. the Tree of life project organization: all plant pages should be called by their botanical binominals (that is, "Petroselinum" i/o "Parsley") (somebody else has voiced that elsewhere), with redirects from common names and from latin synonyms where deemed necessary; as more plants go in people will start to notice that there's quite a few "heal-alls", a handful of "meadowsweets" and such.

Also, lists of genera and species in the taxoboxes _need_ the "Author" bit (that is, "L.", "Ehrh.", "DC." etc.). It pinpoints the exact species meant - if you delve deeper into botany you'll find a few identically named genera and species, where two botanists on opposite sides of the globe have come up with the same brilliant naming idea. Later on, the newer one is renamed to something else, but some will continue to use the old names... so if you don't include the Author, botanists can't tell which you're talking about.

Lastly, I'd like a blank "cut'n'paste" page for each of the levels; where should that be put? "Tree_of_life - Plant_Order (example)"?

Henriette, Sept 8, 2002

They should be at WikiProject Tree of Life. There's one already filled in for spiderwort, but a few blank ones would be good. Usually I copy the taxobox from the closest organism I can think of and edit it.

Would you like to write a list of the various authors of species? Everyone knows who L. was, but it wasn't until recently that I knew anything about Juss.. -phma

OK, the sample taxoboxes are now on WikiProject Tree of Life. Didn't make them blank though.
What I know about authors I've picked up over the years, no formal studies. Like, Siebold went to Japan a few times (in the 1800s), hence a few _hundred_ sieboldii -species. He got thrown out for dabbling in politics, went back as a "German", dabbled in politics again, got thrown out again, and never made it back. You could say he pined for the Fnjapans ever after... -Henriette

This discussion should probably be moved to Talk:WikiProject Tree of Life, and I may do that when I have the energy. The issues are far broader than than just the Solanales.

I very much agree with Henriette about using binomial names; they avoid a lot of ambiguities that result from using common names. Unfortunately, there are as many people who prefer using common names, and who move binomially titled articles to their common names as soon as they see them. At this stage in the debate I am content to use binomial names when I start an article knowing full well that they may not survive that way. This argument seems to pop up with some regularity.

Showing the authors is a good idea about which I somewhat agree. The Siebold example also shows that there are some interesting stories in lives of some of these authors. I was just looking at the primate family Indridae where for the genus Indri the author is given as "É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and G. Cuvier, 1796" - a bit long! Other sources don't even show authors anymore. This issue has not been debated, but I'm inclined to treat their inclusion as an option at this stage. Eclecticology 23:04 Sep 9, 2002 (UTC)

This article doesn't actually state what "Solanales" is. I am left clueless. -- Sam

This looks like a valid criticism. I suppose that saying simply saying that it is an order of plants won't be satisfactory.:-[ Eclecticology 20:07 Dec 5, 2002 (UTC)

The latest change added a number of families to the listing, presumably on the grounds that ITIS uses them. But at the moment, two sets of families are given, one typical of phylogenetic classifications and the one from the semi-standard Cronquist system, and a priori ITIS does not necessarily reflect either. Please, use it with great caution. Josh, Oct 14, 2003

If ITIS is not authoritative, then we're in deep doo-doo! Let's pick an authority as the default and annotate the alternate schemes where they're known. Half the time I can only find plant stuff by full-text search, and hope that the orphaned articles haven't been misspelled - they're a mess (list of garden plants was a most educational fishing expedition). By the time that these taxa settle down, Wikipedia will have fully-automated article rewrite/redesign buttons, so there's no point in omitting links because next year's "all taxa reconsidered at once" paper :-) might suggest a different scheme. Stan 21:54, 14 Oct 2003 (UTC)
It would also be good if we knew the name of the authority; you've been changing things on the basis of "newer classifications" without actually saying where you're getting all this from, so how do I know that your authority is any more reputable than ITIS? Stan 22:08, 14 Oct 2003 (UTC)

No one source has ever been authoritative for wikipedia. Sources for what I've been calling the "newer classifications" - something I should change, when I have a better name for them - include things like the Missouri botanical garden and tree of life]. They're not necessarily more reputable than ITIS, although I should say that it's treatment is quite idiosyncratic in places, but they are different and so it isn't right to simply replace one with another.

There are a number of classifications here, and I'll agree they are a difficulty. The two currently given reflect the concensus among cladists and the most prevalent of the older systems. I've tried my best to give the first in full, for dicots at least, and to research differences with Cronquist wherever possible. It's a lot of work, and so I haven't bothered to do the same with other systems, like Reveal and ITIS, because I'm not sure how important they are. If you do add them, and it would be great if you did, I would like to request that you do so in a way that doesn't disturb the systems already given.

Thanks, Josh

OK, but I'm not qualified to tell which system is better, and anyway we're not supposed to be doing original research. Under asterids for instance [1], Tree of Life cites papers that are way too recent (2001!) to be authoritative yet. We'd actually be better off to use an older established system as the default standard, annotate articles with more recent ideas, and change later when a new system becomes generally accepted. Your observation that "it's a lot of work" is a giveaway that you're dabbling in original research, not just copying verbatim from an established system.

I'm not doing original research, it's simply a lot of work to examine the entire classification of such a large group. At best, I am reporting on original research, which is something wikipedia should do. However, I think it is fair to say that the general outlines of newer systems have become reasonably well accepted, and that most of the uncertainties and variations - things that recent papers would concern - have to do with finer points, like placement of unusual groups. In groups where the opposite is the case, as the protists, I have argued against adopting them.

Either way, though, I think wikipedia should reflect that classification is a live discipline, concerning more than just organization and so sometimes disputed. We shouldn't try and hide that by sticking to a clearly obsolete system, and happily, we don't have to. The wikipedia plant articles are a horrible mess, but that doesn't have anything to do with what schemes we are following. At the moment we have one souce completely defined down to family level, and large portions of another, so every family should be linked from at least one order page, with a few poorly known and not widely accepted exceptions. The Cronquist orders need to be completed, and it wouldn't hurt to add other systems, but at the moment I don't think there's much here that's urgent.

Does all this sound fair to you? Josh

P.S. Eclecticology, the removal of the link to ITIS wasn't an accident. All ITIS provides is one version of a group's breakdown, and in cases where this is variable or it gives an unusual version, that's not really any information. So I don't see the need; but if you want it, I'm not going to remove it.

I'm still left not knowing what I can do. Violet (plant) links to non-existent Violaceae and Violales, but "what links here" shows it in Malpighiales. How am I supposed to decide which to change?? Stan 07:00, 15 Oct 2003 (UTC)
From what I can make out Violet (plant) deals with the genus Viola (This is part of the confusion that comes from using common names, but that's another problem). Both the cladist and Cronquist systems appear to accept Violaceae as a proper family with their differences being at the order level. It can't be wrong to put an article together for Violaceae. Eclecticology 17:10, 2003 Oct 15 (UTC)

Families tend to be relatively constant, and although there are a few exceptions, I think it's safe to take them as given. Orders are a problem. It's not a mistake to list Violaceae on Malpighiales, but ideally it would be listed on Violales as well, since it has been placed in both. The family page could easily explain that variation, however. Taxoboxes are a different matter and I'm not sure what to do with them. They are always a pain when the classification varies. I would personally have no problem with simply giving the newer order, "Malpighiales", but others have argued for the preservation of the older system, so it would probably be best to give both, "Malpighiales/Violales". In cases which are more complicated, we could say "variable" or omit that level, but I don't think they will come up just yet.

Is that enough to work with? I apologize for pages like Violales being missing - I wasn't the one who wanted to preserve the Cronquist system, and so didn't fill in all the order pages specific to it. If nobody does, I will try and do so when I next have a lot of time, but that won't be for a while. -- Josh

That helps, thanks! On the principle that it's better to omit an assertion in an article than to try to guess, I would say those taxobox lines should either be a) blank, b) say (see text) in article, or c) for species and genera, pipe the "see" to a section in the family article that discusses the possibilities. Taxobox is super-handy, but I can see where its smallness/simplicity pushes one into making a assertion ("species X is in order Y") without qualifying it sufficiently. Stan 18:54, 15 Oct 2003 (UTC)

The piping idea sounds really slick, but you'd know better than I how easy it would be to actually implement. Josh

If you guys think it's complicated here, just wait till you try sorting out the insects, particularly the large orders. :-) There seems to be nobody arguing against having a Violaceae article. That would be the place to start an explanation. I don't think that there is any issue of omitting an assertion or trying to guess about the order where this family belongs. The problem should be faced head on. In the taxobox under order we should perhaps put Malphigiales (Violales) with the parentheses suggesting that the name has been falling out of favour to some extent. Beyond that both of the order names should have their own articles. What historically happened to the name should be explained on the page for the obsolete order.

The name Violales was introduced in 1826. That's long before Cronquist. Many books will refer to Violales, notably books for popular consumption such as the Petersen Field Guide Series. We can't ignore it out of existence. Wikipedia articles should be just as meaningful to the layman as to the professional botanist. Eclecticology 05:27, 2003 Oct 16 (UTC)

I don't understand the complaint here. Nobody suggested ignoring Violales, and I specifically stated that we should have an article about it. Josh

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