Fernwort Papers/The system of ferns proposed in Die natuerlichen Pflanzenfamilien

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By Lucien M. Underwood.

To those familiar only with the system of Fern Genera that has been followed in Synopsis Filicum, and in its main features has been accepted in its application to the ferns of North America by most who have made our ferns a study, the system proposed in Engler & Prantl's Die Natuerlichen Pflanzenfamilien will present many strange features;   yet, on the whole, it is to be regarded as a very conservative arrangement.  Nevertheless, while the true ferns (Polypodiaceae) of Synopsis Filicum number only 47 genera, the same group in the present arrangement is distributed among 109; and were the system as uniformly consistent as it is in places, the number would quite readily be increased to three times that of Synopsis Filicum.  Mettenius, Kuhn, and Prantl, the three great German fern taxonomists, have all passed away, and it was left to a novice among ferns but none the less a trained botanist to bring the genera together;  it is to be judged then in this light, and not as the result of a long continued personal study.  While it is a great improvement on the system that has too long been in vogue as the expression of a part of the obsolete English school of fern taxonomists, it is still lacking in many of the characteristics and consistencies that a genuine system must possess.  While some of the excesses of the systems of Fee and Moore are not accepted, many of the really scientific aspects of the systems of Presl and John Smith have not been incorporated, and, as a whole, it lacks most what a master would have put into it—homogeneity and consistency of treatment.  For a system that is supposed to proceed from low to high in an evolutionary way, the order of arrangement of the larger groups is surely peculiar, as may be seen by the following :

Family Hymenophyllaceae
Family Cyatheaceae
Family Polypodiaceae
  1.   Woodsieae
  2.   Aspidieae
  3.   Oleandreae
  4.   Davallieae
  5.   Asplenieae
  6.   Pterideae
  7.   Viitarieae
  8.   Polypodieae
  9.   Acrosticheae
Family Parkeriaceae
Family Matoniaceae
Family Gleicheniaceae
Family Schizaeaceae
Family Osmundaceae