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Current Practice in the Use of Subspecies, Variety, and Forma in the Classification of Wild Plants

Clement W. Hamilton and Sarah H. Reichard
Taxon
Vol. 41, No. 3 (Aug., 1992), pp. 485-498
DOI: 10.2307/1222819
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1222819
Page Count: 14
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Current Practice in the Use of Subspecies, Variety, and Forma in the Classification of Wild Plants
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Abstract

Infraspecific classification of plants continues to be practiced commonly by taxonomists: c. 8% of species monographed in 26 major journals and series during the period 1987-1990 were subdivided. Of those, c. 42% were divided into subspecies only, 52% into varieties, 3% into formae, and 3% into taxa of more than one level. Subspecies and varieties are usually defined as requiring some integrity -- geographic, ecologic, and/or phylogenetic -- beyond the morphological. Despite some attempts to differentiate between subspecies and variety, they are largely equivalent in practice. European taxonomists tend to favor subspecies, whereas their counterparts in the United States usually employ variety. Formae usually are defined as lacking any extramorphological integrity. Given the general inconsistency of practice found, it is imperative that more authors state briefly their philosophy of infraspecific taxonomy so their classifications may be interpreted more clearly. Taxonomists collectively should promote greater standardization of infraspecific classification.

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