FAMILY ALBUMS (English)
FAMILY ALBUMS (Latin)
It should be noted that not all Latinaceae family names have an English language common name equivalent. Therefore it is necessary to look at the Latin-esque Family Album names for the full list of families.
When the website is finished, this section will attempt to show pictures of every plant that belongs to the selected taxonomic family (of those that are extant in the UK). To go directly to a selected member of that family, just click on the selected picture of that plant.
Each family is split up into a number of sub-families more correctly called genera [singular: genus], as shown in the (active) example above, picked entirely at random to illustrate various points. Clicking on a BSBI list box will produce a Pop Out Page [POP] from the BSBI [Botanical Society of the British Isles] website showing a list of all the species that it can find of that genus, with the word underneath the box used as the search term. This can result in spurious output, because the search word can appear as part of other words; this is especially true for short words like 'Arum'. If any word in BSBI list so produced does not begin with the search word ('Arum' in this case), then that line is spurious and may not belong to the Family in question, so should be ignored.
If for some reason there is no entry in the BSBI website for that search word (which usually happens because the species is an introduced or garden species) then the box will be struck through with a red cross, as it is for 'Boletus'.
Clicking instead on the Genus Name just below the BSBIList icon will take the user directly to the flowers listed under that Genus [this part is not active here]. Only those genera where there is one (or more) flowers in the website are clickable (underlined); by this means the user can see at a glance those genera for which there are flower entries.
IMPOSSIBLE FAMILY TREES
Taxonomists are generally wasting their time in trying to categorise the living world into family trees. It used to be thought that plants diverged by natural selection (including random gene mutation) into an orderly family tree that could be drawn just like a family tree of descendants of human lineage. It is now known that this is not true, and that genes have been spreading horizontally across all six (or seven) known kingdoms (animal, plant, fungi, protista, archaea and eubacteria (and prokaryota), but there are probably even more) by various mechanisms including viruses, plasmids, bacteria, and even by things yet to be discovered. There has been, and is still on-going, lateral gene transfer between species and kingdoms such as to make drawing a family tree impossible. Biologist are now also finding that even genes and other bits of RNA and DNA do not code for everything, and that environmental methylation and other epigenetic processes are also very large players in the differentiation of species. Heredity is hugely complex. The more is discovered, the more complex it becomes. See Epigenetics.
Even as we speak, geneticists are busy mapping genes from plants and then deciding that a plant which was once thought to belong to a certain family, actually belongs to a different family. What they fail to realise is that it may, in fact, belong to several dozen families (and not all drawn from the plant kingdom), all at once, but from different eras. All taxonomic categorisations are doomed to failure. It is not possible to draw a fractal family tree, nor to say which plant belongs to which family.
Nevertheless, taxonomists persist in their current pastime for they have, at present, no other method of displaying (some) relationships between members. The author will endeavour to keep up with the constant changes they make as to which plants they think belong to which families; but in all honesty, they really do need to move on and realise that each plant is unique and un-categorisable. The master plan for every flower is drawn from a variety of sources, which could include animals, virii, bacteria and even free-roaming RNA. And they are still evolving. Hybrids abound from which new varieties may eventually emerge. The divergence of species. It is little wonder that biologist still argue over whether there are only five, or are six, or are as many as seven known kingdoms. And that is not counting the unknown unknown ones.
Cell design, for instance, reflects a haphazard historical legacy of happenstance structures drawn from a plethora of mal-adjusted random sources and constructed blindly without aim or purpose to produce a workable solution (one whose only aim is to self-replicate) to hundreds of ephemeral and ever-changing problems. The cell is not perfectly engineered; it has faults which it either lives with or gets around; or finally succumbs to some external threat. That this is so can be gleaned from the fact that there is not just one type of cell, but millions of different cells. All doing different things. The only thing they have in common is that they are living (they self-replicate, and reverse the normal direction of entropy: utilising energy to produce all sorts of chemicals).
A single-cell organism is more like a computer based on chemistry. It is running a chemical program which responds to environmental changes by the use of chemistry. Stimulate or provoke it in some way, and the cell responds by making more of a chemical that produces a plethora of other chemicals that serve to mobilise the cell and move out of danger or to counter the change in circumstances. It is full of response and feedback mechanisms, so many that biologists are only now just scratching the surface of exactly how a single cell actually works or responds to stimuli.
Multi-cellular organisms, like plants or animals are many times more complex. In a multi-cellular organism, each different type of cell has lost (or possibly never had) the ability to live and reproduce alone, and each now relies on the correct co-operative response of differing neighbouring cells in the multi-cellular organism to live, survive, respond to environmental change or stress, and reproduce. In any one plant there are possibly hundreds of differing cell-types. Each plant may have some cell-types in common with other plants, but possibly not all cell-types. Some plants may have unique cell-types. It is probable that cell-types are shared between some species and not others, but those that do not have them may possibly gain them at a later stage, or possibly lose that cell-type altogether. This constant swapping, sharing and losing of cell-types has been going on for millennia (through the action of genes). Each different plant may be a chimera between certain other plants. This mish-mash between thousands of differing plants (leaving aside for the moment that between kingdoms) is almost impossible to sort out taxonomically. It is just not possible to say that plant 'a' belongs to family '1'; when it actually belongs to a great many different families all at the same time. In fact, the 'family' has also been changing over time and does not remain constant, set in stone forever like taxonomists would like us to believe. All living organisms are in a state of everlasting flux.
Classifying any organism into families (or family trees) is an impossible task similar to trying to draw the connections between strands of spaghetti in a bowl. And doing that whilst someone else is stirring it, another is eating it and a third is slowly adding more spaghetti to the bowl.
Classifying the living world is not, and never will be, like classifying atoms into the Periodic Table nor nuclides into the Segre Chart. The living world is a holistic whole; no one species can be taken in isolation.
Recently, Taxonomists have taken to finding some particular Genus so unique, that they have moved the Genus from one the Family into a totally new Family populated solely by the Genus concerned. This has happened to the following Genus: Asparagus, Foxglove Tree, Monkeyflowers, and probably several others of which the author is as yet unaware. This strikes the Author as odd. Is it not the function of the Genus to differentiate between Family members? To put one Genus only into a Family all its' own strikes the Author as not taxonomy at all, but serves to support the argument the Author set out in the boxed text above: that Taxonomy is dead; each species is unique and not amenable to classification.
THE HUMAN GENOME and VIRII
Recent research into the genomes of many living things have revealed that humans have but 20,000 genes, where previously it was estimated that there were something like 100,000 genes in the human genome. Genetic sequencing has shown that our genes themselves occupy only 1.5% of the genome, whereas DNA derived from virii contributes a massive 9%.
Moreover, huge chunks of our genome, comprising another 34%, contain mysterious pieces of DNA resembling virii called retrotransposons. Retrotransposons appear to have no other function but to copy themselves over and over into repeated sections. This behaviour is typical of virii, which also self-replicate into millions of clones.
Taken together, the virus-like portions of our human genome amount to nearly half of our DNA. It was once thought by some (but not the author) to be 'junk' DNA, with no purpose apart from 'padding'. It is now known that some of it plays crucial roles in our biology. The purpose of the rest remains unknown.
It seems that the viruses from infections and plagues can become incorporated into our DNA. Retroviruses like HIV are known to do this, but it was a surprise to some that other virii like influenza and smallpox could also integrate itself into our DNA. The evidence is emerging that viruses have significantly altered the path of human evolution in the very distant past, and there is no reason to suppose they are not still doing so.
One mechanism by which virii effect this is by natural selection. In order to reproduce, viruses should not kill their hosts, because they are incubated by their hosts. But new viruses are usually virulent, killing a large percentage of the population. Some smaller percentage of the population have some inherited advantage that gives them better immunity to the virus; it is this population which survives and breeds. Over time the virus becomes less aggressive, killing fewer people which it infects. Thus over time emerges a symbiotic relationship between virus and host.
Retroviruses like HIV have RNA that can get incorporated into the genes of our cells, being converted into DNA in a process known as endogenisation. Endogenisation converts an infectious virus into a non-infectious endogenous retrovirus (ERV). This is the start of the process of symbiosis. If the retrovirus incorporates genetic material into our germ-line cells (such as eggs or sperm), then the ERV can be passed on from one generation of humans to the next. Here symbiosis can be taken to new levels. Retroviruses are not the only kind of virus that can get incorportated into the germ-line; bornaviruses can also accomplish this feat.
It has become apparent that thousands of human ERVs have been so incorporated into our germ-line over the ages belonging to between 30 and 50 different families, a legacy of past infections over the aeons.
An example from the 'W' family of ERVs that have became integrated into the human genome about 40 million years ago is a gene on chromosome 7 called syncytin-1 which originally coded for a protein used in the viruses coat but is now critical to the functioning of the human placenta. At least seven other viral genes contribute to normal placental function. Many other ERVs with now critical functions in the human body are being uncovered.