12.1 Descriptions of families, genera, species, and infraspecific taxa will each be limited to about 130 words. It is expected that the descriptions for infraspecific taxa will in general be more concise except when only the infraspecific taxon occurs in China (see also paragraph 12.2). Descriptions at any level must be parallel for the taxa at that level (i.e., an attribute mentioned for one species should be mentioned for the other species within the same genus). Only critical and necessary characters used in the key should be repeated in the description, and the description and key must not contradict each other. The descriptions will include diagnostic characters (but see paragraph 12.2) and will not be monographic in extent.
12.2 Do not use diagnoses as a substitute for descriptions. Comparison with other taxa will not be used instead of, or as part of, a description but may be part of a discussion (see section 22).
12.3 If a species includes more than one infraspecific taxon in China, there will be a full description of the species as whole, and the descriptions of the infraspecific taxa (including the autonym) will be diagnostic for each taxon. This procedure is different from many floras where the autonym infraspecific taxon is described in detail and diagnostic characters are given for the other infraspecific taxa.
12.4 If only one infraspecific taxon of a species occurs in China, there will be no description under the species but a full description under the infraspecific taxon, but an indication of the overall distributional range of the species should be given.
12.5 Descriptions are to be in botanical English, which is mostly composed of nouns, adjectives, and conjunctions. For the Flora of China, descriptive botanical English does not contain verbs and has few articles (e.g. "the" is not used and "a" is used only when necessary).
12.6 Descriptions will follow the conventional order (i.e., habit, duration, sex, roots, stems, leaves, inflorescences, flowers, fruit, seeds). Each major part of a description will be in a separate sentence with semicolons used to separate subparts. At the beginning of each sentence and after each semicolon there must be a noun, and all the description until the end of the sentence or until a semicolon must refer back to that noun. Commas are used to separate the various components within the sentence. Note that a series with the use of "and" or "or" is treated as a single component (see paragraphs 12.4 and 12.12).
12.7 If two alternate states of a structure exist, they will be separated by the word "or," and when several alternate states exist, each state will be separated by a comma with the final state preceded by a comma followed by "or" (e.g., "petals white or pink" and "petals white, pink, or blue").
12.8 If a range of shapes is found in a structure the word "to" will be used (e.g., "leaf blade oblong to ovate"). If a structure is meant to be described as intermediate in shape rather than a range between two extremes, a dash "" is used (e.g., "leaf blade lanceolate-ovate").
12.9 When characters are given in series, a comma will separate each component of the series and before the final "and" (e.g., "branchlets, petioles, and peduncles tomentose").
12.10 The general order that a structure should be described is as follows: color, shape, dimensions, texture, surface characteristics, base, margin, apex.
12.11 The following is the general order for describing specific structures:
Below ground parts: roots, underground stems
Stems: primary stems, trunks, bark, wood, branches, branchlets
Leaves: general arrangement, stipules, petiole, leaf blade, lobes, compound leaf axes, leaflets (segments in ferns), modified leaflets
Inflorescences: general, position, type, branches (i.e., description of axes), peduncle, bracts
Flowers: general features, pedicel, receptacle and hypanthium, calyx, corolla, corona, androecium (flowering), glands or disk, gynoecium (flowering)
Fruit: general, aggregation of or division within fruit, fruit or mericarp structure, accessory structures, multiple fruit structure
Seeds: external structures, germination, abortion, endosperm, megagametophytes, embryo
12.12 Descriptions and keys will be based on actual specimens and not taken from the literature; discrepancies between specimens and literature reports should be mentioned in the discussion (see section 22). Descriptions must be based on Chinese material, not on specimens from beyond the range of the Flora. When the characteristics of a taxon in China differ significantly from those found in individuals from the range outside of China, the difference(s) can be indicated in brackets (e.g., "leaf blade 5--10[--15] cm" and "leaves opposite [or alternate]").
12.13 In descriptions and keys nouns must be used as singular or plural depending on the condition found in the plant being described (e.g., "style 2--4 mm" is used when the flower has a single style but "styles 2--4 mm" is used when the flower has more than one style).
The following shows how the general rule for singular and/or plural would be applied for a particular shrubby species:
The species is composed of many shrubs.
The shrubs have many branches, many leaves, several inflorescences, many flowers, and many fruit (note that the plural of fruit is also fruit if they are all of one type).
The inflorescences have one peduncle and several bracts.
The leaves have one petiole, one leaf blade, one adaxial surface, one abaxial surface, one base, one margin, one apex, and several veins (not nerves).
The flowers have one calyx, one corolla, several sepals several petals, several stamens, one ovary, and one style.
The fruit have several seeds.
12.14 Terms such as above, back, below, beneath, bottom, front, lower, top, and upper should in general not be used because they are often ambiguous (but see the following two paragraphs). Rather, the terms adaxial, abaxial, apical, basal, proximal, or distal (or their adverbial forms adaxially, abaxially, apically, basally, proximally, or distally) should be used.
12.15 For zygomorphic flowers the terms upper and lower are to be used in describing the calyx and corolla lips (e.g., "upper lip" and "lower lip").
12.16 The terms apical or basal or upper and lower rather than proximal and distal should be used when describing structures on the main stem of a plant because proximal and distal are meaningless in this context. However, proximal and distal can be used when describing structures along a side branch because in this context distal means farther from the stem and proximal means closer to the stem.
12.17 The following is an example of the order and punctuation of a description:
Epilobium fangii C. J. Chen, Hoch, & Raven, Syst. Bot. Monogr. 34: 152. 1992.
Herbs perennial, erect. Stems 15--40 cm tall, strigillose with scattered glandular hairs, with 2 lines of hairs decurrent from margins of petiole. Leaves opposite, apically alternate; petiole 1--4(--6) mm; leaf blade elliptic to elliptic-oblong, 1--4 X 0.5--1.5 cm, leathery, subglabrous except for strigillose veins and margins, base cuneate to broadly cuneate, margin obscurely serrulate with 5--18 teeth on each side, apex subobtuse to sometimes acute. Inflorescences erect; bracts ca. 1/2 as long as ovaries. Pedicel 3--7 mm. Flowers erect; floral tube 0.6--1.1 mm. Sepals oblonglanceolate, 4--5 X 0.8--1.2 mm, keeled. Petals pink to rose-purple, narrowly obcordate, 6--7.5 X 2.8--3.5 mm, apical notch 1--1.5 mm. Filaments of longer set 2.8--3.5 mm but those of shorter set 2.4--2.6 mm; anthers 0.7--1 mm. Ovary 1.5--3 cm, glandular. Style 3--4 mm, glabrous or sparsely hairy near base. Stigma capitate, 0.8--1.1 mm. Capsule 3--7 cm, 1--1.8 mm in diam. Seeds narrowly obovoid, 1.1--1.4 X 0.3--0.5 mm, finely papillose; coma 6--7 mm. Fl. May-Aug, fr. Jun-Oct. 2n = 36@.
* Open places along stream banks, at bases of rock walls or scree slopes; (1100--)1700--3500 m. Sichuan, Yunnan.
Note in the sample entry above that each component of the description must not only refer back to the earlier noun but must also be grammatically correct such that the noun could be repeated before each component of the description (i.e., petals pink to rose-purple, (petals) narrowly obcordate, (petals) 6--7.5 X 2.8--3.5 mm).