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Re: VMS Botany

"Dana F. Scott" wrote:
> Without having direct knowledge of which plants were used for the
> botanical drawings in VMS it is certainly a very challenging task to
> make accurate identifications when compared to today's available
> specimens; however, there is value, I think, in making at least a best
> guess comparison or finding a close approximation. What makes this
> particular folio very difficult to identify is that I imagine that there
> are probably numerous other examples of plants that look quite a bit
> like this drawing. While you may not all have access to f25r in the VMS,
> here is a picture of the plant called TRIADENUM VIRGINICUM which appears
> to be a very close match to f25r. Unfortunately, the base and roots of
> the plant cannot be seen in this picture, but I am impressed by the fact
> that  the leaves even seem to be oriented as drawn in the VMS.
> http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/dcs420/a/hdw23109902s.jpg
> Regards,
> Dana Scott

I don't recall right now what it is called, but there is a scientific
method of identifying a plant, a something (bi-something?) key.  While
the drawing itself may not resemble the plant, perhaps the key elements
of it's depiction do correspond ot the real thing.  I remember using one
years ago.  It consists of a series of yes-no questions, each yes or no
referring you to a new page with a new yes-no question.  Since so many
plants look alike, I think one can assume that even before such a
classification system existed, these features in the yes-no questions
were probably already notable and used to distinguish.  It might be
worth a try to look it up, though the questions require a knowledge of
botanical terms (I think there are about ten different terms for types
of 'hair' on plants alone' not found in common dictionaries and a rather
voluminous text containing the key.  Unfortunately, if the artist didn't
draw in all the features, even a reliable identification to the level of
family is highly unlikely, or at least that's what my basic
understanding of botany leads me to believe.  Perhaps a scholar in the
herbalism of the time providing a list of plants to a botanists might
yield fairly probably idents, otherwise, I am afraid it would be
hopeless.  Any botanists and/or medieval mid-wives out there?