PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN
A Publication of the Botanical Society of America, Inc.
8 SEPTEMBER 1962 NUMBER 3
Better International Cooperation in the Life Sciences
LEDYARD STEBBINS 1
modern world is being transformed and dominated by natural science. This truism
is accepted by everyone, from the leaders of the great nations, who are ordering
the construction of giant satellites and missiles, to the farmers in the least
developed nations who are longing for more tools and fertilizers to help them
produce more food, or for the latest insecticides to help them combat pests.
As the work of scientists becomes more complex, the need for cooperation on
a world-wide scale becomes ever more pressing. In the physical sciences, financial
support for international cooperation has been assured by the need for mutual
defense. On the other hand, the applications of the life sciences, which are
less immediately concerned with national survival, have sometimes appeared
to national leaders to be of secondary importance. Consequently, financial
support of international cooperation in biology has often been less than adequate.
Nevertheless, the ultimate well being of the world's peoples in the future
will depend more and more on progress made in the life sciences, including
their applications to improving our health and combatting fatal diseases,
to increasing the world's food supply, and to preserving our priceless heritage
of natural living resources. In biology, as in all branches of sciences, progress
will depend increasingly on cooperation between all nations at every level.
This is the proposition to which the International Union of Biological Sciences
is dedicated, and which is the primary reason for its existence.
HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL UNION OF
us imagine the following situation, resembling one which actually existed
recently. A group of embryologists in Tokyo has made some important discoveries
about the way in which animal tissues develop, and how this development is
related to abnormal growth, or cancer. They would like to show their results
to embryologists working in other parts of the world, and find out how their
discoveries re-late to those made in other laboratories. Even after all published
papers have been read, big questions have arisen which can be answered only
by face to face discussions over the laboratory table, and by careful comparisons
of different preparations observed through the same microscope. Consequently,
these Japanese embryologists decide to hold a symposium on their special topic,
and obtain funds from their government and local institutions for this purpose.
Dr. Stebbins is Secretary General of the International Union of Biological
Sciences, with offices at Davis, California.
travel from any part of the world to Japan is very ex-pensive, and all of
the resources available to them at home are insufficient to pay travel expenses
of foreign visitors. Upon inquiry, they find that large laboratories and academies
in the United States, U.S.S.R., France, and England are much interested in
these discoveries, and are able to pay the expenses of their own specialists
to attend the symposium in Tokyo so as to bring back word of them at first
hand. But how about Dr. S— who works in the Netherlands, Dr. T—
in Yugoslavia, Dr. W— in Poland, and Dr. Z— in Colombia? All of
these embryologists have made highly significant contributions to this topic,
and their presence would be essential for the success of the symposium. Their
institutions and governments are anxious to have them go, but funds are limited,
and if they went to Japan, many other scientists in the same countries could
find equally good reasons for making long journeys, and so create drains on
the treasury which could not possibly be met.
Yet, attendance of these scientists from smaller nations at such symposia is
equally or even more important than regular trips by the leading scientists
of the larger nations. With the ease of travel under modern conditions, and
the larger budgets of the major countries, scientists from these countries have
opportunities relatively often to meet each other personally and exchange ideas
at first hand. Consequently, the experience of an international symposium means
far more to a scientist working in a country with limited financial means, than
in one of the world's major centers. But no national organization exists to
provide adequately for the needs of such scientists. The obvious answer is that
cooperation through an international union can in such situations do something
which is beyond the resources of any national organization directly interested
in this problem. In the life sciences this is one of the functions of IUBS.
Other functions will be described below.
POSITION AND DEVELOPMENT OF IUBS
Union, having been founded in 1919 with the original League of Nations, is
one of the oldest of the official international scientific organizations.
In 1947, the IUBS joined other similar international scientific unions to
form the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). The formation
of this Council was stimulated by the newly organized United Nations, through
its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Since then,
the International Council of Scientific Unions, although always maintaining
an independent status, has received much
PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN
WILLIAM L. STERN, Editor
25, D. C.
P. BANKS Cornell University
NORMAN H. BOKE University of Oklahoma
S. GREENFIELD Rutgers University
QUARTERMAN Vanderbilt University
ERICH STEINER University of Michigan
SEPTEMBER 1962 VOLUME 8
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SUBMITTED FOR PUBLICATION should be typewritten, double-spaced, and sent in
duplicate to the Editor. Copy should follow the style of recent issues of
both moral and financial, from UNESCO.
International Union of Biological Sciences has had less association with those
agencies of the United Nations concerned with the practical application of
scientific re-search, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
World Health Organization (WHO), and Inter-national Atomic Energy Association
(IAEA). Nevertheless, consultants from these organizations regularly attend
meetings of IUBS or its committees when problems of mutual interest are being
discussed. Close collaboration exists also between IUBS and the International
Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). On an international scale, connection
between research in basic biology and its application to problems of human
welfare can be secured best by collaboration between the activities of IUBS
and those of the applied agencies mentioned above.
the postwar period, international cooperation in biology increased to such
an extent that the activities of IUBS had to be greatly expanded. Consequently
in 1953, when the delegates of the Union met for their General Assembly in
Nice, they recommended the appointment of a temporary consultative board,
charged with reorganizing the Union. This committee, under the direction of
Dr. Paul Weiss of the Rockefeller Institute, made a series of recommendations
and a new set of statutes. When these were adopted by the General Assembly
at Rome in 1955, the modern era of IUBS began. The vigor and growth of the
Union in its reorganized form was due largely to the administrative ability,
energy, enthusiasm, and devotion to all phases of biology which were shown
by the two major officers elected at Rome: Professor Sven Horstadius of Sweden,
President; and Professor Giuseppe Montalenti of Italy, Secretary General,
who succeeded Hōrstadius as President in 1958. These two officers, who
retired from their key positions respectively in 1958 and 1961, performed
services of inestimable value to the Union and to international biology during
their periods of tenure.
present, therefore, the International Union of Biological Sciences is one
of fourteen unions adhering to the Inter-national Council of Scientific Unions,
and receiving sup-port from UNESCO through ICSU as well as from the member
nations of IUBS itself. Thirty two separate nations adhere to IUBS and join
in support of its activities. These are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil,
Bulgaria, Canada, China (Taiwan), Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands,
Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Union of South Africa, United Arab
Re-public, United Kingdom, U.S.S.R., U.S.A., and Yugoslavia.
OF THE UNION
most countries, responsibility for membership in the Union is in the hands
of national academies and similar bodies. They nominate delegates to the General
Assemblies, recommend the number of unit contributions which the nation should
pay as annual dues to the Union, and make recommendations concerning its policy
and activities. There are no individual memberships. The activity of the United
States in the Union is determined by a Committee appointed by the Division
of Biology and Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research
Council and operating also under the direction of the Foreign Secretary of
the Academy. In the past, the minimum amount of dues paid annually by a nation
has been the equivalent of zoo Swiss francs (about $46). The larger nations
have voted to pay several of these basic units, the total amount being determined
by their size and resources. The largest amount, paid by the United States,
is 50 units, or about $2300. At the General Assembly in Amsterdam, 1961, the
size of the unit contribution was increased to $loo.
business of the Union is carried on by an Executive Committee, which meets
annually; by the officers of twenty-two different sections, commissions, and
other permanent bodies, representing various fields of biology; and by a General
Assembly, which meets every three years. The last General Assembly was held
in Amsterdam in July, 1961, and the next Assembly is scheduled for Prague
in 1964. At the General Assembly, the delegates of the separate nations and
the officers of the sections join with the Executive Committee in outlining
the business and policy of the Union for the next three years.
present membership of the Executive Committee is as follows: President, C.
H. Waddington (United Kingdom) ; Vice President, P. Chouard (France) ; General
Secretary, G. L. Stebbins (U.S.A.) ; Publications Secretary, R. Ulrich (France)
; Treasurer, J. Lanjouw (Netherlands) ; Past President, G. Montalenti (Italy)
; Representatives of General Biology, M. Chevremont (Belgium), and C. G. Heden
(Sweden) ; Representatives of Botany, A. Kursanov (U.S.S.R.), and G. Taylor
(United Kingdom); Representatives of Zoology, J. Baer (Switzerland), and K.
Grell (Germany). The members serve for terms of three years, and they may
of the diversity of biology, the structure of the Union has necessarily become
rather complex. It contains three divisions: those of General Biology, Botany,
and Zoology, each of which contains several sections. In addition, certain
specialized tasks are assigned to semipermanent commissions and to permanent
service bodies. For instance, the Division of Botany contains sections of
General Botany, Plant Physiology, Plant Taxonomy and Nomenclature, and Paleobotany.
In addition, Plant Ecology is to be handled by a newly created Section of
Ecology, associated with the Division of General Biology, while Plant Genetics
is included in the Section of Genetics. Other sections dealing with topics
of interest to plant scientists are those of Biochemistry, Biometry and Cell
Biology, all associated with the Division of General Biology. As can be seen
from this list, the organization of sections has not followed an all inclusive
plan designed to represent every field of biology. Sections have been established
whenever a group of biologists, usually organized into an international society
or federation for the purpose of holding international congresses, has desired
to become affiliated with IUBS, and their application has been approved by
the Delegates at the General Assembly. The Union may, therefore, be regarded
as a federation of international biological societies which have united to
promote their common interests.
general objective of the International Union of Biological Sciences, which
is to provide an international unifying force in biology, is being carried
out in three ways: Aid in standardization of the methods and language of biology,
helping biologists to organize symposia and congresses, and organizing international
research projects in basic biology which will contribute to human welfare.
The first of these functions is the oldest and most firmly established. The
Union has for many years given financial support to the Committees of Botanical,
Zoological, and Bacteriological Nomenclature, and the activities of these
committees have been regularly reviewed by the General Assemblies. To assist
standardization of materials in Genetics and Microbiology, it has supported
the maintenance of permanent cultures of Drosophila and of various microorganisms.
It has represented biology on the International Abstracting Board, which aims
at establishing international standards for abstracts of scientific publications.
Other tasks of standardization have been supported from time to time, as needs
have arisen. In the plant sciences, for instance, it has sup-ported the work
of the International Botanical Gardens Commission in compiling a Directory
of Botanical Gardens, of the Section of Plant Taxonomy and Nomenclature in
compiling an International Directory of Specialists in Plant Taxonomy, and
the Index Herbariorum, an index of the world's herbaria.
recent years, the sponsorship of congresses and symposia has been the major
function of the Union. The relatively limited funds obtained from membership
dues have been generously increased by an annual subvention from the International
Council of Scientific Unions, which has been supported in turn, by UNESCO.
Nevertheless, the Union is able to give only partial support of the meetings
which it sponsors; most of its subventions have been $$1500 or $2000. Although
no rigid rules exist regarding the use of these funds, the Union prefers to
have them spent for travel and subsistence of scientists attending the congresses
and symposia. Contributions have also been made to organizational expenses,
particularly for the larger congresses. In the plant sciences, support was
given to the International Botanical Congress at Montreal in 1959, and for
preliminary organization of the next Botanical Congress at Edinburgh in 1964.
The following symposia in the plant sciences have been and are being supported
during 1961 and 1962: Marine Algae, Biarritz, France; Development of Archegoniate
Plants, London; Controlled Plant Growth, Canberra, Australia; Problems of
Botanical Gardens, Brussels. Requests for support are received by the General
Secretary either from the secretaries of sections or from individual organizers
of symposia, and are reviewed by the Executive Committee at its annual meetings
interest of IUBS in gatherings of scientists extends beyond sponsorship and
financial support of individual meetings. The Union maintains a calendar of
biological congresses and symposia for three years in advance, and is in a
position to suggest dates for holding meetings which will not conflict with
those in related fields. Furthermore, at each of its General Assemblies it
has been much concerned with how large international congresses should be
conducted, and what useful purpose they may serve. At the last Assembly in
Amsterdam, for instance, secretaries and other officers of international congresses
which have been recently held in the fields of botany, genetics, and microbiology,
exchanged experiences with officers who were organizing future congresses
in these fields, as well as in zoology, limnology, entomology, and biometry.
The liveliness of their discussion as well as of those which have pre-ceded
it in past General Assemblies, is ample testimony of the value of such exchanges
of experiences and opinions between biologists who have similar tasks to perform
for aiding different segments of the life sciences.
AND PARTICIPATION IN INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH
PROJECTS IN BIOLOGY
participation in organizing biological research on an international scale
is the newest activity of the International Union of Biological Sciences,
and is still in an embryonic stage. Nevertheless, as the science of biology
progresses, particularly in the less developed countries, this activity is
likely to increase, and may become the most important of all. Part of it is
in an advisory capacity. At the General Assembly in Amsterdam, the Union complied
with a request made by the Naples Biological Station to establish an Advisory
Committee of biologists, which will review the research activities of the
Station, and make suggestions as to future policies. They also supported in
principle the plan of UNESCO to establish an International Cell Research Organization,
which aims to coordinate re-search activity in this basic field. On the other
hand, the Union did not agree with the opinion expressed by some biologists
that UNESCO and IUBS should sponsor the
of an International Laboratory, with separate buildings and facilities, which
would become an International Institute of Cell Biology. The delegates to
the Assembly felt that in such general fields as cell biology, the chemistry
of nucleic acids and the genetic code, the chemistry and physiology of photosynthesis
in isolated organisms, and the neurophysiology and behavior of higher animals,
existing laboratory facilities and financial support are adequate. International
collaboration in these fields can best be achieved by promoting formal symposia
as well as in-formal gatherings of scientists with common interests, and by
international fellowships which will enable scientists from the smaller nations
to study and work in the larger laboratories which now exist.
the other hand, these general disciplines, which seek to discover the basic
principles and phenomena common to all living things or to large segments
of the world of life, can never encompass all of biology. Based upon common
properties of cell structure and metabolic function of a biochemical nature,
living things have evolved an enormous diversity of specific form and function,
and have developed elaborate communities having intricate interrelationships
among the organisms of which they consist. The essence of life is its diversity
of specific form and function based upon a uniformity of general principles.
Consequently, the study of biology must emphasize this diversity as well as
the general principles which underlie it. In order to estimate the future
resources of mankind, we must learn as much as we can about how solar energy
can be used to manufacture food and fuel through the medium of photosynthesis.
But such knowledge is not enough. Just as the engineer must study and learn
to improve both the sources of energy and the specific machines by which this
energy can be made to do particular kinds of work, so the biologist must learn
more about both the nature of metabolic energy and the specific organisms
and communities of organisms in which this energy is being used to reproduce
the animals and plants which we need for food and fuel.
latter type of information cannot be obtained by scientists working in separate
laboratories, but requires field studies on as large a scale as possible,
so that the organisms and communities of the world may be directly compared
with each other. Furthermore, the regions of the world where the need for
increasing biological productivity is greatest, and where the least is known
about the means of doing this, are chiefly in the tropics, far from the larger
biological institutions. Biologists familiar with the problems of these regions
are still far too few, and those who have an over-all picture of actual and
potential biological resources in many different regions of the earth are
even fewer, or perhaps nonexistent. Here, therefore is an area of biology
in which coordination of research, both between nations and between the different
biological disciplines, is imperative if biology is to provide information
basic to progress in such applied fields as agriculture, conservation, and
these facts in mind, the officers of IUBS and of its sister International
Unions of Biochemistry and Physiology, have for the past two years been discussing
informally the proposal to initiate an International Biological Program. These
discussions reached a climax at a meeting called by the International Council
of Scientific Unions at Morges, Switzerland in May, 1962. At this meeting
definite plans for such a program were begun, and representatives of four
International Unions, those of Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Physiology,
and Geography, met with representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International
Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), and the International Union for the Conservation
of Nature (IUCN), at whose headquarters the meeting was held. They decided
on a program which would attack the problems which have been generated by
man's catastrophic transformation of natural communities of living organisms,
which has often decreased their productivity; by the need for increasing greatly
the productivity of biotic communities to keep up with the earth's growing
population; and by the physiological stresses and alterations in genetic composition
which human populations have experienced as a result of these changes. The
general title of the program is, therefore, "The Biological Basis of Productivity
and Human Welfare."
the authority of ICSU, the initial planning committee assembled at Morges
has become the Central Planning Committee for the Program. Its Chairman is
Professor G. Montalenti of the University of Rome, and members ex officio
are Professors S. Hōrstadius of Uppsala, Sweden, Vice President of ICSU,
and C. H. Waddington of Edinburgh, President of IUBS. A series of subcommittees
is being organized in order to plan specific projects under the program. Three
of these will deal with the subject "Biological Productivity of Terrestrial
Communities." One, under the chairmanship of H. Ellenberg (Zurich, Switzer-land)
will plan a general survey of terrestrial communities; a second, headed by
M. Florkin (Liēge, Belgium), President of the International Union of
Biochemistry, will plan projects on the Metabolism of Terrestrial Communities.
Projects associated with Conservation of Terrestrial Communities will be planned
by a subcommittee under the leadership of Dr. M. Nicholson of the Nature Conservancy,
London. Subcommittees for planning projects dealing with fresh water and ocean
communities are also being organized. Finally, a subcommittee to be convened
by J. S. Weiner (Oxford, England), will plan projects to study the biological
basis of human adaptability, both physiological and genetical.
research will be planned by biologists and will be strictly in basic biology.
Nevertheless, an orientation toward problems of human welfare must be constantly
maintained. For this purpose, each subcommittee will have one or more consulting
members who represent one of the international agencies concerned with problems
of applied biology: FAO, WHO, IAEA, IUCN, and others.
of the newness of the program, we cannot predict how much time will be required
to formulate precise plans for these projects. Nevertheless, the Central Planning
Committee at Morges expressed the hope that sometime in
plans for projects would be far enough advanced so that they could be submitted
to representative groups of biologists throughout the world for further review,
and put into effect soon after that. At this preliminary stage, more-over,
the time schedule of the actual research is hard to predict. The Planning
Committee at Morges felt that at least for the present the organization of
a single concentrated year of data gathering, similar to the IGY, would be
unwise. For some of the projects contemplated, adequate methods are already
available, and research is now being carried on by individual groups of biologists.
For these, the work of the International Biological Program groups may become
largely one of coordination, standardization, and concentration on relatively
neglected areas of research. In the case of other projects, such as those
associated with community metabolism, much research may have to be done on
developing and standardizing methods before the actual gathering of data can
begin. As plans develop the Central Committee may see the need of a series
of "years," each one emphasizing some phase of the program.
of the size and novelty of the program contemplated, well trained personnel
for conducting the research may become hard to find. Anticipating this difficulty,
a subcommittee for Public Relations and Training has been established under
the chairmanship of G. L. Stebbins (Davis, California). In addition to keeping
biologists in-formed on the progress of the program, this subcommittee will
make plans for establishing a series of International Biological Program Fellowships,
at both the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels. If funds for such fellowships
can be secured, they will be made available to young men and women who wish
to obtain the kind of research training which will fit them particularly for
the work of the projects. The fellows will be given the opportunity of carrying
on research either in association with members of the planning and research
committees, or in laboratories selected by them.
biologists, this International Biological Program is a novel venture, and
we cannot now predict how successful it will be. Nevertheless, the problems
which we hope to at-tack are very real, and biologists have a challenging
opportunity for helping mankind through such efforts. As the world grows smaller
and the science of biology grows larger and more comprehensive, the need for
cooperation among biologists of different nations and various disciplines
will continue to increase. The fulfillment of this need in the best way possible
is the avowed objective of the International Union of Biological Sciences.
College of Tropical Agriculture
first impression of a botanist visiting the tropics for the first time is
one of wonder and bewilderment. He is overwhelmed by the luxuriance and the
vast number of
of the introductory address presented to participants in the Neotropical Botany
Conference held in Trinidad, July 1-7, 1962. plant species, many of them unfamiliar—even
some of the families are unfamiliar—and by the many life-forms. As he
sweats from one ecological community to another, his wonder and his bewilderment
increase. If he is humble enough, he soon realises, particularly if he is
a well-trained botanist, that the gaps in his botanical knowledge are immense,
and he will have difficulty in knowing where to begin. The taxonomist, who
has worked for many years in the herbarium, is usually quite astonished when
he sees the living material which looks so different from the dried specimens
on herbarium sheets. I well remember Dr. John Hutchinson looking out at our
College savanna in 1959 and saying, "Ah, the herbarium come to life." And
the longer the botanist works in the tropics, the more he realises the gaps
and the countless problems requiring attention, and they increase rather than
diminish. It is the great wealth and complexity of the tropical flora and
the many different habitats, from the desert to the tropical rain forest,
from sea level to the perpetual snows, which make the study of tropical botany
such an enthralling, but formidable task.
one believes, as I do, that the Angiosperms arose and developed in the tropics,
and that the temperate floras are depauperate and abnormal, surely botanists
should pay a great deal more attention to studying their subject in the tropics.
Most of the facts and theories of botany have been developed in temperate
regions and these do not always apply when exported to the tropics. The same
can be said for most botany textbooks. But some of the major breakthroughs
in our science have occurred as a result of stimulation by the tropics. Would
the theory of natural selection and evolution have been postulated as early
as it was if Darwin had not visited the tropics, particularly the Galapagos
Islands, and if Wallace had not worked in the Far East? Would Schimper have
written his Plant-Geography if he had never left Germany? Could Corner have
pro-pounded his Durian Theory if he had never seen a durian?
his recent essay on evolution, Corner (1961) says: "Textbooks hoodwink. A
series of more and more complicated plants is introduced—the alga, the
fungus, the bryophyte, and so on, and examples are added eclectically in support
of one or another theory—and that is held to be a presentation of evolution.
If the world of plants consisted only of these few textbook types of standard
botany, the idea of evolution might never have dawned, and the back-grounds
of these textbooks are the temperate countries which, at best, are poor places
to study world vegetation. The point, of course, is that there are thousands
and thou-sands of living plants, predominantly tropical, which have never
entered general botany, yet they are the bricks with which the taxonomist
has built his temple of evolution, and where else have we to worship"?
the vast upsurge of population in the tropics, more and more of the forests
and other natural vegetation are being cut down and despoiled. More and more
tropical countries are becoming inaccessible politically. The once famous
centres of research, such as Buitenzorg (Bogor), no longer offer the same
facilities. Botanic gardens of long
have become public parks (Purseglove, 1959). As Corner (1961) points out in
regard to the tropical forest, "If we are not careful we shall lose these
magnificent testimonies of evolution, whether we regard them as genes, organisms
or communities on the grandest scale." The need for protection and conservation
is a ray of hope, however, and this lies in the recently founded universities
and university colleges in the tropics. Their botany departments can do much,
but this is still only a small fraction of what needs to be done. It is hoped
they will attract botanists from elsewhere to come and study the plants in
their natural environment. Green-houses and herbaria in temperate countries
are not enough. Some of the best tropical floras and monographs have been
written by those who have studied their plants in the tropics as well as on
herbarium sheets. The botany of temperate countries has been studied for several
centuries; tropical botany for a very short time. If one considers the number
of botanists working in or on the tropics, the number is infinitesimal compared
with those engaged on temperate plants and crops. We need more people interested
in and working on tropical botany, more money for travelling.
us look at a few of the problems which present themselves within a stone's
throw of where you are now sitting. Why should Murdannia nudiflora (Commelinaceae),
a native plant of southeastern Asia, first reported in Trinidad in 1889, have
taken over large patches of the Axonopus compressus lawn during the last three
years, dying out at the beginning of the dry season, only to appear in full
force with the rains? Why should the Axonopus under the Samanea saman (Leguminosae)
remain green and succulent during the dry season while the grass outside the
shade of the tree is burnt brown? We know that the grass under the tree contains
more nitrogen. Why? Is it due to the effect of shade, temperature, leaf-fall,
the water dripping from the rain tree, or is the Samanea fixing nitrogen and
passing it on to the grass? In fact what do we really know of nitrogen fixation,
and indeed of the nitrogen cycle in the tropics? Very little.
should only one of the angelin trees (Andira inermis, Leguminosae), in the
group outside, be flowering at this time? Why should the yellow pouis (Tabebuia
serratifolia, Bignoniaceae), which have had four good flowerings this year,
all bloom at the same time over quite a wide area? Why should the new leaves
of Amherstia nobilis, Saraca spp. and Brownea spp. (all Leguminosae) hang
down as limp pinkish or purplish tassels and dangle for several days before
stiffening and straightening? Why is the new flush of cacao and many tropical
trees red? Near the Milner Hall is a tree covered with Doxantha unguis-cati
(Bignoniaceae). Why should this cat's claw creeper be smothered in yellow
blooms for four days every April? It is known to generations of students as
the "Examination Tree," because when it blooms it is time for the students
to start revising for their examinations.
bats pollinate the Kigelia aethiopica (Bignoniaceaethe sausage tree) over
there (on the campus) as has been found in other parts of the world? This
lone specimen is extremely fruitful. What causes the neat circular holes,
about 1 cm. in diameter, on the top of all the flowers and buds? And what,
in fact, do we know of the pollination mechanism of most tropical plants?
are just a few of the gaps in our knowledge, but looking at the tropics as
a whole they can be multiplied almost indefinitely. Why do some of the worst
soils in the world, as can be found in parts of the tropical rain forests,
carry some of the most magnificent vegetation? On the very poor porous wallaba
(Eperua, Leguminosae) podzol in British Guiana it may be impossible to obtain
even one crop of maize after clearing (Richards, 1952). And why are most tropical
rain forests of such mixed composition with an absence of single-species dominance?
we really understand the role of ants in relation to the tropical flora? I
suspect that it is much more important than we realise. It has been suggested
that ants in the hollow Cecropia (Moraceae) stems protect the plants from
attack by other insects. They certainly aid in dispersal of the seeds of some
species, e.g., by burying the seeds of Dischidia spp. (Asclepiadaceae) and
Cleome rutidosperma (Capparidaceae). It has been suggested elsewhere (Purse-glove,
1962b), that in the case of the myrmecophilous Myrmecodia and Hydnophytum
(both Rubiaceae), the ants bring earth and other detritus into their nests
in the swollen stems and provide nitrogenous matter with their excreta. Ants
often nest in clumps of epiphytes, in which no special symbiosis is obvious,
but here again they may assist with the nutrition, pollination and seed dispersal.
Why do certain trees have many more epiphytes than other tree species?
pan-tropical distribution of many weeds presents many interesting problems.
Why should a plant which is an insignificant member in its native flora suddenly
assume a dominant role when taken to the other side of the world? Certainly,
it will be at an advantage if it has not taken its pests and diseases with
it, but it often seems that the new habitat suits it better than the one in
which it evolved and it becomes more competitive. Recently I was astonished
to find that much of the vegetation around Bogota is introduced. Kikuyu grass
(Pennisetum clandestinum) is now the dominant grass, and the composites Taraxacum
and Hypochaeris are more obvious than many of the local plants. It is surprising
to find that most of the tropical export crops are now produced in the largest
quantity on the opposite side of the world from where they originated and
some reasons have been deduced for this (Purseglove, 1962a).
taxonomy of many of our tropical crop plants is in a frightful mess. Simmonds
(1962) has pointed out that Linnean binomials and formal taxonomy are not
always applicable to cultigens, as "crop plants in general are in a state
of genetical flux, migration, hybridization and selection causing profound
changes in the characters of crop populations in short periods of time." In
some cases "the basic evolutionary steps took place at the diploid level from
wild diploid ancestors. . .diploidy was followed by the human selection of
autopolyploidy and of interspecific hybridity." He suggests that "the practical
solution is to jetti-
Latin nomenclature below the generic level and apply the Code for Cultivated
Plants." It is necessary to study extensive living collections of the genera
in question and to consider them from the evolutionary standpoint, taking
into consideration cytological, genetical, geographical and archeological
evidence. This is precisely what was done in working out the classification
of the genera Gossypium and Musa, most of the work being done in Trinidad.
Even the origin of some crop plants, which do not occur in a wild state, e.g.,
sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), is far from being finalised.
do we know of the evolution and advantages of the life-forms in the various
tropical habitats? Why should the same life-form have evolved in species of
Espeletia (Compositae) and Puya (Bromeliaceae) at 11,000 ft. on the paramos
of the Andes as is found in the species of Senecio (Compositae) and Lobelia
at the same altitude on the East African mountains?
at the College we are attempting to find answers to a few of the questions.
We now have three years' records of phenological data taken weekly on some
400 plant specimens around the College. Postgraduate students have investigated
weed succession and the biology and ecology of a few of our worst weed species,
using as a basis the Biological flora of the British Isles as published in
the Journal of Ecology. Valuable work has been done on cacao and bananas;
work is in progress on citrus and food crops.
the amount of work remaining to be done is immense. If this Conference on
Neotropical Botany can focus attention on some of the major gaps and problems
and find the ways and means to encourage people to work on them, I feel that
we shall not have wasted our time. If we can persuade botanists to leave their
temperate climates and expose them to the tropics it might have the effect
of a blood transfusion to the study of botany as a whole. Those whose blood
groups are compatible might continue to work on tropical problems; the shock
to those whose blood groups are incompatible would be salutary, provided it
did not prove fatal.
at all levels should be encouraged to visit the tropics—the undergraduate,
the Ph.D. student, the post doctorate, and, even more important, those who
already have an established reputation. The formation of an association for
the study of neotropical botany similar to l'Assoelation pour l'Etude Taxonomique
de la Fiore d'Afrique Tropicale might do much to co-ordinate the work which
is already in progress. I feel that a regular publication similar to the Flora
Malesiana Bulletin would be found useful. I suggest that such an association
should include all aspects of botany, as we are doing at this Conference.
Consideration should he given to the compilation and publication of a vegetation
map of the neotropics as has already been clone by A.E.T.F.A.T. for Africa
and by Dr. C. G. G. J. van Steenis for Malaysia.
I extend an invitation on behalf of the University of the West Indies for
botanists to come and use the facilities offered by the Imperial College of
Tropical Agriculture. We shall be very glad to see them.
E. J. H. 1961. Evolution in Contemporary botanical thought. A. M. Macleod
and L. S. Cobley, ed. Oliver and Boyd. Edinburgh.
J. W. 1959. History and functions of botanic gardens with special reference
to Singapore. Gardens Bull. Singapore 17: 125-154.
1962a. Some problems of the origin and distribution of tropical crops. Gcnetica
Agraria. In press.
1962b. Plants and plant communities of the Bako National Park, Sarawak. Gardens
Bull. Singapore. In press.
P. W. 1952. The tropical rain forest. University Press. Cambridge.
SrnIDtoNDS, N. W. 1962. The classification and nomenclature of the bananas
and potatoes: Some implications. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 173: 111-113.
and Opportunities of the Taxonomist Today-
University of Tennessee
and taxonomists have been subjected recently to much criticism because they
and their science "have not made the maximum use of the modern data and techniques
available to them." Many critics believe that we have unwittingly or intentionally
ignored the findings of cytology, of genetics, of physiology, and of other
phases of biology, and have not fully exploited statistical, biochemical,
and biophysical methods. I will not deny that in part we deserve these criticisms.
taxonomists and systematists primarily have used comparative gross morphology,
and to a more limited extent ecology and geography, in pursuing their science.
In addition, many of our interpretations have been opinions, and in the words
of some of our censors, "not quantitative." Up to the present, our science
has been, in part, an art, intuitive and descriptive, and of necessity, in
part must continue to be so. We are not quite ready to communicate to our
present-day colleagues or to the botanists of the future, descriptions of
plants or species or even vegetation in strictly quantitative terms. Perhaps
the time may come when we can, but I doubt that, allegorically speaking, a
fingerprint formula will ever completely substitute for a picture of the finger.
Both will prove useful, and the artist and the computer must both be retained.
the previous statements, I am not trying to relieve the taxonomists of their
obligations to use the philosophies and tools of related and supporting disciplines.
Indeed, to understand adequately the systematics and taxonomy of organisms
we must insist on more training for ourselves and our students, not only in
the related "quantitative" fields of chemistry, physics, and mathematics,
but also in the impinging practical fields, e. g., horticulture, plant breeding,
agronomy, phytopathology. An understanding of these and other disciplines
such as developmental morphology, palynology, and paleontology are necessary
to a full comprehension of systematic botany. In spite of the fact that many
This paper is a condensed version of the presidential address delivered by
Dr. A. J. Sharp to the American Society of Plant Taxonomists at the A. I.
B. S. meetings in August, 1961. His speech was originally published in its
entirety in The American Biology Teacher 24 (2): 87-90. 1962. Because of the
pertinence of Dr. Sharp's remarks, and the limited circulation among professional
botanists of the original publication, the Editorial Board has concurred that
his speech be reprinted in Plant Science Bulletin.
realize the implications of related sciences better than the practitioners
in those fields understand taxonomy, we must continually strive to improve
our knowledge and use of related data and techniques in order to advance our
discipline. We have no license to do otherwise, and at no time in the past
have we had such great and numerous opportunities available to us for the
enrichment of our science. We are obligated to take full advantage of them
for the sake of humanity, if not for ourselves.
brings me to the main theme of my discussion—the responsibilities and
opportunities presented to taxonomists by man's most serious problem today:
that of providing plant resources for the rapidly increasing human populations.
The most recent estimates of the world population are somewhat higher than
we anticipated they would be, over 3 billion in 1961, a gain of 1.7 per cent
each year. The United States with its present rate of increase will have one
billion people in 90 years. It is to plants that people, perhaps without being
aware of their dependence, look for all of their food, most of their clothing,
much of their housing, fuel, and drugs, not to mention agents in conserving
water, soil, and wildlife. The additional demand for plants by the extra people
each year is compounded by the individual's desire for a better standard of
living. Thus, an increase of 1.7 per cent in the annual production of plants
does not satisfy society. The Asiatic Indians seem to understand this problem
better than most, and to summarize the observations of Mr. Nehru and Mr. Chagla—the
problem must be faced and solved in the foreseeable future, or man will be
reduced to the condition of a subhuman animal. The rate of increase in available
plant resources is not keeping pace with that of populations, and it is not
impossible to visualize man with a totally inadequate diet and his clothing
reduced to a bandana or a bikini which would poorly serve the Tibetan or the
man becomes civilized he seems to lose his awareness that his culture is based
on plants, an awareness probably most fully developed among primitive peoples.
The complications of so-called "advanced" civilizations, and of industrialization,
seem effectively to isolate and insulate man from the environments in which
are produced the materials on which his culture is based. This relationship
between human culture and plants must be fully understood by our society today,
and I feel that the taxonomist with his knowledge of nature must share in
the responsibilities and opportunities inherent in recreating this awareness.
recent years much has been written and said about the possible damage to genes
by various types of radiation. Very little emphasis has been placed upon the
loss of, not single genes, not just chromosomes, but whole genomes or complex
genetic systems, through extinction. The biological destruction wrought by
multiplying man is terrifying. Between unstable governments, huge mobile machinery,
and philosophies of perpetually expanding economies, large areas are being
radically modified. For example, I have recently been informed by botanical
friends from both Mexico and the United States that the Mexican cloud forests
which I studied in 1944-46 have subsequently been reduced to less than half
their former area by man's activities.
appreciable and rapid change in environment inevitably brings about the extinction
of forms, varieties, species, or less apparent genetic systems. Many of these,
if conserved, would serve as new basic raw materials in industry or breeding
stock for the improvement of crops, drug plants, or even ornamentals.
have asked several of my friends who are members of this organization to suggest
what proportion of plant species in the world are still to be discovered,
described, and named. The estimates have varied from a little over io per
cent to something over 75 per cent, depending in part on whether or not they
were including non-vascular plants. To lose a significant part of any genetic
material through our failure to recognize its importance to the future would
be an error that we or society could ill afford. Because of the nature of
our science and our training, in a very real sense we are the custodians of
the gene pool for posterity. I cannot emphasize too strongly its importance
to society in terms of in-creasing food production, or producing better or
new antibiotics or other drugs, increased and improved fresh-water supplies,
and otherwise enhancing the welfare of mankind.
mounting population pressures, the increasing use of gigantic, earth-moving,
tree-cutting and "busting" machinery, rampant nationalism, and carelessness
in protecting resources, what is needed today is a crash program of botanical,
I would even suggest biological, exploration for, and conservation of, presently
unknown genetic materials by preservation in natural areas and botanical gardens.
Along with this should go descriptions and classifications of entities, of
communities, and of environments, which are soon to vanish from the earth.
We must not discount the work of the explorer, or of the collector, or of
the artist or describer, none of whom may use quantitative techniques but
still eagerly make important contributions and free other workers for additional
phases of the work. Even descriptions or exsiccati in the herbarium, of extinct
entities, will prove invaluable in the future to our understanding of evolution
and other mechanisms in our universe.
an International Biological Project, IBP, perhaps somewhat comparable to the
IGY but of longer duration, has already been under consideration by members
of the National Academy of Sciences and the United States National Committee
of the International Union of Biological Sciences and has been discussed by
others. This project would be a big step in the right direction, and we must
fully support it. Any such project of necessity must include a program of
exploration, description, classification, making an inventory and conservation
of materials more or less as outlined previously. To fail to include such
a program, for whatever reason, would not only increase tremendously the difficulties
of solving the population-plant resources problem in general, but deny to
many of the under-developed countries the preservation of the basic re-sources
upon which the improvement of their economy depends. Such a project must educate
the nationalists in such areas not "to kill the goose that lays the golden
egg," or in
words, not to exploit wantonly their biological re-sources leaving only waste
for future generations.
cost of such a program may seem large, but it is actually small compared to
the economic losses to be sustained by our failure to locate and conserve
endangered genetic resources. There are biologists who would deny subsidy
to such a program. Working on processes within a cell or an organism, they
forget the intimate relationship between the organism and its environment.
Moreover, some of them seem to feel that all taxa have been collected, described,
and classified, and that an herbarium has little more scientific value than
a stamp collection. I must remind them, that while many of their laboratory
problems may be satisfactorily worked on ten or a hundred years from now,
this is not true of our program. Exploitation is taking place so rapidly in
the world today that only with a very active program can we successfully detect
and conserve vanishing genetic plant or biological reservoirs. Failure will
mean that we cannot often supply the biochemist, or biophysicist, or cytogeneticist
with the materials they will need in the future for the solutions of problems
many of which they do not now recognize.
responsibility in the matter of population control is somewhat limited but
still with us, if we are to take seriously our duties as citizens and scientists.
However, the nature of our science and our training insists that we, the taxonomists
and other field biologists, 'recognize and understand the problems of producing
adequate plant materials for larger and larger human populations. An awareness
of the nature and of the urgency, which I feel very keenly, of these problems
and of the taxonomists' possible roles in their solutions brings with it definite
responsibilities. We must educate and "sell" to the public, to the politicians,
to the statesmen on the world scene, and even to many of our own colleagues
in related sciences, a vigorous program of exploration for, and conservation
of, plant materials today unknown.
are other matters in which we have responsibilities, and which need our attention:
For example, the recruitment of young workers to our field, a more adequate
use of youngsters and amateurs in our research programs, the preservation
of local natural areas for future educational and training programs. All of
these and others, if properly handled, could furnish us with much greater
we fulfill these obligations, it will provide us with opportunities, such
as we never have had, not only of better serving society and our profession,
but of obtaining vastly enhanced bases for understanding evolution, systematics,
and phylogeny. Perhaps most important, we cannot be censured now or in the
future for failing to accept the responsibility which belongs to us.
and structure of plants. A photographic
ADDISON E. LEE AND CHARLES HEIMSCH. I-Iv + 64 pp.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. $1.50
paperbound book, a collection of photographs of morphological and histological
material selected from seed plants with descriptive text, is designed as a
visual aid, either alone or as a supplement, in the teaching of elementary
biology or botany. Various numbered structures in the illustrations are identified
in the text. Represented in the collection of photographs are materials commonly
used in elementary courses as well as some less common items to illustrate
variation in structure. Separate chapters deal with each of the plant organs,
with seeds and seedlings, and with embryo development. The well organized
and concise text accompanying the illustrations comments briefly on aspects
of structure, development and function. Brevity has dictated some omissions
which some users might have preferred to see included. For example, the origin
of cambium is not made clear. Some readers may twinge at the teleological
statement, "In many grasses the leaves curl to prevent water loss," but such
statements are rare, and in general there are few errors. The book is conveniently
of the photographs is superior. Although some detail is lost in the printing
process, this is probably inevitable at the reasonable price. Choice of material
for illustration fits admirably with the stated purpose of the publication.
my opinion the book would be useful in introductory biology or botany courses
as a supplement if the added expense to the student can be justified. This
seems an efficient method of acquainting the beginning student with the fundamentals
of plant structure with a minimum expenditure of time on his part. Whether
observation and identification in photographs is as effective as observation
and drawing, the bane of many students, remains largely a matter of subjective
viewpoint. Here is an opportunity to test the photograph approach.—W.
F. MILLINGTON, Marquette University.
NEOTROPICAL BOTANY CONFERENCE was held at the
College of Tropical Agriculture, St. Augustine, Trinidad from I -j July 1962,
under a grant from the National Science Foundation. Thirty invited delegates
from Latin America, the United States, Holland, and the Carib-bean attended
to discuss the major gaps in our knowledge of the various botanical disciplines
in the New World tropics, and to suggest ways and means by which they might
be narrowed. In the course of the discussions, it became apparent that the
field should not be limited to neotropical botany alone, but that consideration
had to be given to the study of tropical biology as a whole. To further this
aim, the Trinidad Conference constituted the AssoclATION FOR TROPICAL BIOLOGY
whose purposes and functions would be: 1) to stimulate, encourage and support
research in tropical biology; 2) to promote the training and interchange of
students, teachers and investigators in this field; and 3) the development
of facilities to attain these objectives. A small international working committee
was appointed with Professor John W. Purseglove of Trinidad acting as chair-
Membership in the new association is open to all interested in tropical biology.
The membership fee of $1 U. S., or equivalent, should be sent to Professor
Purseglove, Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, St. Augustine, Trinidad.
Persons who join before 31 December 1962 will be regarded as founder members
of the association.
UNIVERSITY ARBORETUM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA has indicated the availability
without charge of a mimeographed abstract of Charles T. Mohr's Plant life
of Alabama, and A check-list of Alabama woody plants. The complete version
of the former work is out-of-print and extant copies have deteriorated badly.
Furthermore, the en-tire work is seriously in need of revision. Written demand
for the mimeographed abstract of Mohr's work will help in part to determine
the need for publication of a printed revision, and a questionnaire page is
inserted in the abstract to further this aim. Those desiring either the abstract,
the check-list, or both are urged to communicate with Dr. E. Gibbes Patton,
Director, University of Alabama Arboretum, P. O. Box 1927, University, Alabama.
BRITANNICA FILMS is preparing a series of nine science filmstrips on plant
classification for release to schools this autumn. The filmstrips will be
distributed to high school biology teachers and are being produced with the
collaboration of Professors Howard Arnott and Robert Doyle of Northwestern
University. In preparation of the filmstrips, it is possible to utilize standard
35, mm. color transparencies. A number of subjects which should be included
in the filmstrip series are still lacking, and botanists who might be interested
in supplying films to Encyclopaedia Britannica for this purpose should write
to Mr. Winslow Kelley, Associate in Filmstrip Production, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Films, Inc., Wilmette, Illinois, for a list of desired subjects. Transparencies
selected for inclusion in the film-strip series will be purchased for $Io.00
and a duplicate prepared for the donor.
SUMMER INSTITUTE ON EVOLUTION IN VASCULAR PLANTS, with Dr. R. B. Channell
and Dr. Elsie Quarterman as co-directors, was held at Vanderbilt University
June 18 to July 27. This Institute, which was designed for teachers of college
botany, was supported by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by
the Botanical Society of America.
WILLIAM C. STEERS, Director of the New York Botanical Garden, received an
honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Michigan in June.
Dr. Steere served on the Michigan faculty from 1931 until 1950 when he went
to Stanford University, ultimately to become Dean of the Graduate Division
there. He took up his position in New York in 1958.
Society of Sigma-Xi has announced the award of $200 to DR. IRVING W. KNOBLOCH
of Michigan State University. This award is to assist in his study of the
contribution of anatomy to speciation problems in certain members of the genus
MARTIN ROSINSKI and DR. GEORGE WOODWELL have resigned their positions as Associate
Professors of Botany in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at the
University of Maine. DR. RosrNsKI is now an associate professor in the Department
of Botany at the University of Iowa where he teaches mycology and cares for
the mycological collections. DR. WOODWELL has been appointed to the staff,of
Brookhaven National Laboratory. During the past year he was on leave from
Maine to direct studies in the influence of radiation on the ecology of a
GRAHAM DUSHANE, until recently Editor of Science has assumed his duties as
Head of the Department of Biology and Dean of the Graduate Sciences at Vanderbilt
University. Under Dr. DuShane, the Department of Biology will again be administered
as a single unit.
PROFESSOR R. B. CHANNELL, plant taxonomist at Vanderbilt University, was recently
promoted to an associate professorship. Professor Channell continues to serve
as Director of Vanderbilt's Graduate Program in Plant Evolution which is supported
in large part by a National Defense Education Act training grant.
ROBERT W. LONG, formerly of the Department of Botany and Bacteriology at Ohio
Wesleyan University, has accepted a position as Associate Professor of Botany
and Curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
DR. HENRY DECKER of Yale University succeeds Dr. Long at Ohio Wesleyan as
Assistant Professor of Botany.
CHARLES E. MILLER, Department of Biology, Texas A. & M. College, has accepted
an associate professorship in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology
at the University of Maine.
JOSEPH C. GILMAN, Professor of Botany (retired) at Iowa State University,
has accepted a position as Visiting Lecturer in Mycology in the Department
of Botany at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, for the academic year
STANWYN G. SHETLER has recently been appointed to the staff of the Department
of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Shetler is completing his graduate
studies in botany at the University of Michigan. His responsibilities at the
Smithsonian include curatorial work on the flora of continental North America
north of Mexico. He is especially interested in arctic and alpine floras and
vegetation, and in the taxonomy of the genus Campanula.