Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Published in The American Naturalist, Vol. 30, No. 354 (Jun., 1896), pp. 465-468.


In a recently published address Dr. Coulter speaks of a new movement in botany which is sending botanists " to the great laboratory of nature," and replacing collecting trips by biological surveys. "The old-fashioned collection of plants," he says, "will hold no more relation to the new field work than the old geology, with its scattered collection of fossils, holds to the topographic geology of to-day." Geographical botany as it is now understood is comparatively a recent development. Collectors and cataloguers for a long time have been gathering a portion of the bare facts upon which geographical botany must proceed, and the facts of plant-distribution have been more or less ascertained. But the systematic collating and grouping of these facts and the application of biological and physiological facts to them is a matter of the last few years and is still going on. At first localities 'were catalogued, and collectors were eager to add new and rare stations to those recorded for species; then came statistical comparison of families and genera, especially in relation to altitude and the media of plant-migration. The limits of distribution of species were ascertained, particularly of those which are characteristic and controlling in vegetation. Such work laid the foundations of geographical botany.

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