Plants have been classified in various ways. Some writers have divided them into trees, shrubs, and herbs; others have arranged them according to the colour of the flowers, the shape of the fruit, or the nature of the root. Linnaeus taught us to count the stamens and pistils. But in all these methods the real and natural resemblances were often overlooked. The apple is a tree, the rose a shrub, the strawberry a herb, and the fruits differ, yet their family relationships are strong. They each have five sepals, five petals, and many stamens. The stamens, too, arc attached to the petals and sepals, and not, as in the buttercups, to the receptacle. So they all belong to one family, which has been named the Rosaceous family, N.O. Rosaceae.
But the beginner has to find out what forms a family or Natural Order (N.O.); and he must have a guide. I have therefore adopted the method of Linnaeus, and adapted it to the natural system. The stamens are the first and most important organs in the following method. The young botanist, when he has counted the stamens, will turn to the classification. He
will find that in the monocotyledons the stamens are three (Triandria) or six (Hexandria); while in the dicotyledons they vary. But a dicotyledon may have six stamens. What is then to be done? It will be seen that plants with six stamens fall into two groups. In one the stamens are equal, and in the other there are four long and two short ones, and only four petals. These plants all have a strong family likeness, and owing to the arrangement of the petals they have been placed in the N.O. Cruci-ferae, Group x (Fig. 22).
Fig. 17. - White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba).
Fig, 18. - Rosebay Willow-herb,.
Again, very many plants have five stamens, but in some cases they are free, while in others the anthers form a tube. In the latter case the flowers are compound, and so we have (Fig. 19) Group viii, N.O. Compositae, which corresponds with the Syngenesia of Linnaeus. The arrangement, therefore, is the simplest possible. There are very few plants with one stamen only, and these will not be found by the beginner, so I start with the plants which have two stamens and one pistil (or more). This forms the second class in the Linnean system, known as Di-andria. The term andria in all these expressions means stamen, or male organ.
No system will include all the plants, because Nature refuses to be bound by rules laid down by man. But, once we have got a good hold of the great laws, the exceptions may be easily mastered.
Fig. 19. - Horse Daisy (see Group viii).
Fig. 20. - Iris, or Flag (see Group ix).