Man has learned to manipulate his surroundings in a profound way. It is evident that all creatures on earth interact with their surroundings resulting in minor or major changes. Man’s way of manipulating seems to differ, however, in one important respect and that is his strong will to manipulate in planned directions. This is in clear contrast to instinctive manipulation as seen in other animals. In order to improve his surroundings and his food Man started to select plants from the wild that were suitable to his purposes. Those plants not yet ideally suited he learned to modify in diverse ways, leading to the origin of cultivated plants. The resulting wealth of variation soon led to the need to classify these new forms. Because there is an obvious relation between cultivated plants and those growing in the wild, classification and nomenclature of both types of plants have always been strongly connected. Linnaeus finally standardized the nomenclature for plants and decided to classify cultivated plants subordinate to wild plants but to otherwise use the same type of nomenclature. This step has pervaded the systematics, taxonomy and nomenclature of cultivated plants until today. Many attempts have been made to keep systematic categories of cultivated plants under the influence of classificatory philosophies relating to wild plants and they have all been unsatisfactory. Many special categories for cultivated plants have been proposed but only few have survived, notably the cultivar and the (cultivar-)group. Recently, however, a systematic theory has been proposed that emphasizes the distinctions between the goals of classifying wild plants and cultivated plants. It is emphasized that this distinction is much clearer than has always been recognized and a new general term for systematic categories of cultivated plants the culton, has been proposed. The historical/ philosophical survey below illustrates the development of systematic thought in cultivated plant taxonomy leading to the proposal of the culton concept.

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Acta botanica neerlandica

CC BY 3.0 NL ("Naamsvermelding")

Koninklijke Nederlandse Botanische Vereniging

W.L.A. Hetterscheid, R.G. van den Berg, & W.A. Brandenburg. (1996). An annotated history of the principles of cultivated plant classification. Acta botanica neerlandica, 45(2), 123–134.