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Angiosperm classification and the APG[edit]

In the past, classification systems were typically produced by an individual botanist or by


a small group. The result was a large number of systems (see List of systems of plant
taxonomy). Different systems and their updates were generally favoured in different
countries. Examples are the Engler system in continental Europe, theBentham & Hooker
system in Britain (particularly influential because it was used by Kew), the Takhtajan
system in the former Soviet Union and countries within its sphere of influence and
the Cronquist system in the United States.
Before the availability of genetic evidence, the classification of angiosperms (also known
as flowering plants, Angiospermae, Anthophyta or Magnoliophyta) was based on
their morphology (particularly of their flower) and biochemistry (the kinds of chemical
compounds in the plant).
See also: Flowering plants:History of classification
After the 1980s, detailed genetic evidence analysed by phylogenetic methods became
available and while confirmed or clarified some relationships in existing classification
systems, it radically changed others. This genetic evidence created a rapid increase in
knowledge that led to many proposed changes; stability was "rudely shattered". [1] This
posed problems for all users of classification systems (including encyclopaedists).
In the late 1990s, an informal group of researchers from major institutions worldwide
came together under the title of the 'Angiosperm Phylogeny Group' or APG. Their
intention was to provide a widely accepted and more stable point of reference for
angiosperm classification. Their first attempt at a new system was published in 1998 (the
APG system). As of 2010, two revisions have been published, in 2003 (APG II) and in
2009 (APG III), each superseding the previous system. Eight researchers have been
listed as authors to the three papers, and a further 33 as contributors (see Members of
the APG below).
A classification presents a view at a particular point in time, based on a particular state of
research. Independent researchers, including members of the APG, continue to publish
their own views on areas of angiosperm taxonomy. Classifications change, however
inconvenient this is to users. However, the APG publications are increasingly regarded
as an authoritative point of reference and the following are some examples of the
influence of the APG system:

A significant number of major herbaria, including Kew, are changing the order of
their collections in accordance with APG.[2]

The influential World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (also from Kew) is being
updated to the APG III system. [3]

In the USA, a recent photographic survey of the plants of the USA and Canada is
organized according to the APG II system. [4]

In the UK, the latest edition of the standard flora of the British Isles (by Stace) is
based on the APG III system.[5] The previous edition was based on the Cronquist
system.

Peter F. Stevens, one of the authors of all three of the APG papers, maintains a web
site, APweb, hosted by the Missouri Botanical Garden, which has been regularly updated
since 2001, and is a useful source for the latest research in angiosperm phylogeny which
follows the APG approach.[6]