In earlier articles, we learned how plants are split into grasses, herbs, and trees and explored the question Are Plants Alive? from a scriptural perspective. Now we continue forward seeking to determine the different Created Kinds of plants.
This is a crucial point in the creation and evolution debate as the two models measure and predict vastly different outcomes.
The evolution model expects a continuation of ancestry from the complex organisms we see today all the way back to the simple organisms that first appeared billions of years ago. The creation model expects a limited ancestry (with measurable gaps) that begins with fully formed and functional Kinds showing no primitive ancestors between them and diversification following over a few thousand years.
If the level of Kinds (and the expected gaps between Kinds) can be demonstrated, then there is strong evidential support for Creation and against Evolution.
Defining a Plant Kind
At a simple level, the creation and evolution debate focuses on whether there is:
- limited common ancestry (the many species within a single Kind), or,
- universal common ancestry (all species came from a single original ancestor).
Baraminology, the study of created Kinds, focuses on determining the connections of species within a Kind and distinguishing the gaps between Kinds by emphasizing breeding and hybridization as well as comparing shape and form both visually and statistically. We know from experience that with animals the level of Kind averages near the Family unit of classification: as in the ‘Recorded Hybridization in the Duck Kind’ example found in Exploring the Creation Orchard Part I.
A Created Kind is generally recognized as having:
- A recognizable base form and structure that does not change over time ( a kind )
- Limited variation in surface features that do change over time ( species within a kind )
- Possible hybridization between species within a kind
- No hybridization between kinds
- Speciation which occurred both before and after the flood (generally following the concepts of Environmental Acclimation and Heritage Mating found in Exploring Speciation Due to Environment)
Although many parts of a plant can be used for identification (leaves, bark, roots, etc.), the unique feature of flowering plants is the flower itself. Therefore, the goal is to develop a method of determining the flowering plant kinds based on the structure of the flowers. There are alternative formulas being developed based on cones for evergreens and spores for ferns also.
The Floral Formula
The Floral Formula is a mathematical way of describing the number of parts and shape of the flower. It has existed for over a century, but it has never been popular—even with botanists. Therefore, it has not been well developed and individual researchers tend to add the details that interest themselves rather than having a uniform code. Similarly, I have had to develop symbols for aspects of the flower that help in determining the gaps between kinds.
A floral formula can contain a large amount of information, but at it’s core it contains information regarding:
- Sepals (the covering of the flower bud—usually small and green) represented with K
- Petals (usually brightly colored) represented by C
- Anthers (with the pollen) represented by A
- Pistil (with the seeds) represented by G
- Numbers stating how many of each of the above are in the flower
- Other information such as symmetry and fusion of flower parts (not shown in the basic example)
In practice, the Floral Formula is a somewhat strict determinant for Kinds. Different methods used to determine a Created Kind can act as Lumpers or Splitters in delineating how many species are in a Kind or in how many Kinds exist. The strongest splitter is looking for observed hybridization between species.
One of the lumpers is statistical baraminology which has shown the benefit of suggesting where to look for possible hybridization. On this scale, the Floral Formula is expected to come somewhat close to the numbers that actual hybridization would give.
Hypothesis and Predictions
The hypothesis is fairly simple and straightforward: each unique floral formula should represent a distinct Created Kind. For example, K3 C3 A3 G3 and K4 C4 A4 G4 and K4 C3 A4 G3 would represent three different kinds ( numbered 3333, 4444, and 4343 respectively ).
This method raises questions for evidence of Intelligent Design concepts
Intelligent Design looks for patterns of information that are unlikely to naturally occur. Generally, evolution would expect the most efficient form to be the most common. So if, for instance, a plant with K4 C4 A8 G2 ( 4482 ) was most efficient, then we would expect a great many plants to have this formula or be clustered close to it. Instead, my hypothesis suggests that all usable combinations ranging from 0001 to 5555 should both exist and be used only once. A sequential pattern that is extremely unlikely by random chance.
The first phase of research is simply collecting the Floral Formula for all of the existing Families of flowering plants. The Floral Formula has over 1,200 total possible base combinations. However, going through all combinations would produce multiple counts in Families that have separate male and female plants as well as counting all of the combinations that have ##00 which would be an infertile and useless flower as it has no pollen nor seeds.
When sorted, there is a maximum potential of 384 Kinds and a more probable combination of 288 Kinds. This is in comparison to the roughly 316 Families in evolutionary classification.
The second phase of research involves comparing these formulas with known hybridization records, conducting hybridization tests in greenhouse/laboratory conditions, and further refinement of information required in the formula to accurately reflect a recognized Kind.
The first and second phases of research both raise several important questions to answer during testing. Among these are:
How much variation can occur in a formula within a Kind?
Just as we know there can be many variations within a dog or horse kind, there can be variations within a plant kind. For example, a wild rose will have a base of 5 petals, but ornamental roses will have many petals (in multiples of 5) due to mutation and duplication of the whorl of petals. Or there can be a range of somewhat smooth to rather ornately curved petals as in this picture of some species in the Hibiscus Kind.
How much detail is needed in a formula to determine a Kind?
Is the number of parts in the flower enough or does it require additional information on fusion or symmetry? While the accurate portrayal of the appearance of a flower requires these additional elements, it may be possible to determine and list the Kinds with only the base numbers.
Are there multiple Kinds with Common Design elements?
Some Families of plants are thrown together for the simple reason that they have a similar feature that is assumed to have evolved once and then diversified such as the many plants in the Maple Family that are loosely based on seeds that have a membrane forming a “helicopter”, “whirlygig”, or other floating shapes. Also, is the unusual petal arrangement of the orchids (the largest family of flowering plants) something unique to one kind or is it a common design element belonging to possibly three (or as many as five) Kinds?
Similarly, all the flowers with a spathe and spadix are lumped together by evolutionary taxonomy despite having significant differences. In this image, there is a common Jack-in-the-pulpit and the rather different skunk cabbage (which is one of the rare endothermic plants able to stay a little warmer than its environment).
What must be done with complex formulas coming from Family groups?
For example, K4-5 C4-5 A8 G2 contains a mixture with some plants having 4 or 5 sepals and some plants have 4 or 5 petals. This is somewhat common as evolutionary biology has mixed many genera or species together based on thinking it is the closest relative or sometimes just because they do not know where else to place it. The simple response is that further detailing of the Floral formula by Genera should clarify how the groups within the Family need to be separated or categorized.
What must be done if two families have the same formula?
The simple response is that these two families should be the same Kind. I have encountered this only once so far. Interestingly, the plants in both families have unique alkaloid chemistry not found in most plants.
The two families are Solanaceae (nightshade) and Convolvulaceae (morning glory). Of course, things are always more complicated than such a simple article can give. The one has 85 genera, the other 50 genera and a few select genera may not fit in the rest of the group. Also, the one has the potato and the other has the sweet potato. although nightshades are known as being poisonous, some morning glories are hallucinogenic, discouraging bugs from eating them and troubling unwary gardeners.
The search for hybrids between these two families is currently underway but testing in a greenhouse environment may be required.
How does this method compare with the modern changes to taxonomy due to DNA sequencing?
This comes up because DNA sequencing has been used to heavily redesign plant relationships, sometimes mixing and matching unusual items while separating seemingly very similar items. The initial response is that the Floral Formula works on morphology (the structure and form of the plant) and it, therefore, aligns with traditional (non-DNA) taxonomy.
But the more interesting part in phase two of the studies will be to determine if DNA-based taxonomy is splitting a recognized Kind (that would include known hybridization) or lumping things together that clearly are separate kinds. An example of this would be the aforementioned Maple Family which is already complex enough to possibly be multiple Kinds, but which has recently been absorbed into the Soapberry Family which has many different characteristics.
The Solanibar Kind, shown in the image above, has many familiar plants including nightshade, tomato, and potato. In this example, the Floral Formula states that:
- the Calyx has 5 fused sepals
- the Corolla has 5 petals fused into a tube
- there are 5 stamens that are each fused at the base with the petals
- a compound pistil of 2 carpels with superior ovary
Thus far, over 100 Floral Formula have been recorded including the following samples (shown in an image because the Floral Formula font is not available online).
Thus far, over 100 Floral Formula have been developed alongside a growing plant hybrid database. The simple version of the results is that nothing has falsified my hypothesis so far and its predictions seem to be working. Furthermore, the average for a Plant Kind is near the Family level of classification as it has been for Animals Kinds. The expected list of possible combinations is filling up with no troubling repeats or overlaps. Much research remains to be done, but so far the results are encouraging.
This article was made from the developing concept at: Floral Formula Discontinuity Systematics for Angiosperm Holobaramin Delineation