Naming names in nature

D Narasimhan

Caryota-urens-Fish-tail-palm In the past, the identification of plants and learning their names was probably a fun and interesting activity and not something considered a burden. How else can you explain the writing of detailed treatises and Nikandus? Or surgeons in the British army studying plants in colonial countries? Or missionaries who came to preach turning into botanists? Or a police constable mastering plants used in the siddha system?

This interest in learning about plants seems to have vanished (if not, highly diminished) in the last 5-6 decades. Today, taxonomists are an endangered species. Where did we go wrong? Has nature lost its charm? Do we lack good teachers? Does our education system relegate biology to the last seat and put technology in the driver’s seat? Let us introspect.

Dr. D Narasimhan is Associate Professor, Department of Botany, Madras Christian College (Autonomous), Chennai. He can be reached at [email protected].

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