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Re: VMS Botany

Hello Brian,
     Yes, I have seen this method used to help identify botanical specimens. I
have even seen a Web site that uses an approach similar to what you refer to
here. Even getting to the Family level would be very helpful I believe.
Perhaps all the plants in the VMS have some common denominator of interest to
the author. Maybe they were chosen for their medicinal application, their
uniqueness (new discoveries), or unusual (human/animal-like) shapes. Then
there is the question of whether or not the drawings were based on real
plants, copies from other herbals, or possibly composites. It is also
difficult to determine at what stages in their life-cycles the plants was


bfarnell@xxxxxxx wrote:

> "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?
> Regards,
> Brian
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fn:Dana Scott