Early Efforts at Plant Classification

Theophrastus (370-288 b.c.) may have been the first to publish on the subject of plant classification in the work called Enquiry into Plants. Here, he classified plants into four groups. In addition to botany, Theophrastus had a great many interests, including the causes of wind, scents, and sensations; physics; ethics; politics; and history. Another of his writings was entitled On the Causes of Plants. Dioscorides (fl ca a.d. 5) compiled Materia Medica, which illustrated 500 plants of supposed medicinal value. At one time, a plant name was actually a description of the characteristics of the plant. This often required the equivalent of an entire sentence and was thus a burdensome system.

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