History and Current Status of Systematic Research with Araceae

Copyright © 2002 by Thomas B. Croat
Missouri Botanical Garden
P. O. Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166

Note: This paper, originally published in Aroideana Vol. 21, pp. 26-145 in 1998, is periodically updated on the IAS Web site with current additions. Any mistakes, proposed changes, or new publications that deal with the systematics of Araceae should be brought to my attention. Mail me at the address listed above, or E-mail me at here. The following Web page version was published in 2000. The recently updated version last revised on November 1, 2002, is available as a Microsoft Word document (736 Kb) here, and as a PDF file (929 Kb) here. Adobe Acrobat Reader™, a free software, is required to view this PDF file.


The history of systematic work with Araceae has been previously covered by Nicolson (1987b), and was the subject of a chapter in the Genera of Araceae by Mayo, Bogner & Boyce (1997) and in Curtis's Botanical Magazine new series (Mayo et al., 1995). In addition to covering many of the principal players in the field of aroid research, Nicolson's paper dealt with the evolution of family concepts and gave a comparison of the then current modern systems of classification. The papers by Mayo, Bogner and Boyce were more comprehensive in scope than that of Nicolson but still did not cover in great detail many of the participants in Araceae research. In contrast, this paper will cover all systematic and floristic work that deals with Araceae which is known to me. It will not, in general, deal with agronomic papers on Araceae such as the rich literature on taro and its cultivation, nor will it deal with smaller papers of a technical nature or those dealing with pollination biology. It will include review papers on technical subjects and all works, regardless of their nature, of current aroid researchers. It is hoped that other reviews will be forthcoming which will cover separately the technical papers dealing with anatomy, cytology, physiology, palenology and other areas, and that still another review will be published on the subject of pollination biology of Araceae and the rich literature dealing with thermogenesis.

Among the earliest papers featuring what are now called Araceae were those by L. Fuchs (1542) and John Ray (1682) who were among the first to fully describe plants of Araceae as well as those by Dodoens (1557) who described and illustrated several European species in Arum, Arisarum and Dracunculus (also featuring Calla palustris under the name Dracunculus palustris). Though these works often had aroid clustered together and thus understood the familial concept it was left to later works, especially Tournefort (1700) and Jussieu (1789) to define the Araceae in formal terms.

Carl Linnaeus, the father of binomial classification, can hardly be considered an aroid specialist, but since his system laid the groundwork for all subsequent work he must be recognized. His (1753) Species Plantarum treated only 26 of the more than 3500 species of Araceae currently estimated for the family, and these were placed in four genera: Arum, Dracontium, Calla, and Pothos. In Genera Plantarum (Linnaeus, 1754) he added the genus Pistia. By the time of his second edition of Species Plantarum (1763) he had recognized 36 species.


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This page was created by Scott E. Hyndman for the IAS on December 9, 2000.