University of Missouri-Columbia


The development of systematic descriptors and associated vocabulary for Zea mays (maize/corn) --Vincent, PLD, Coe, EH, Jr. One of the research areas of the Missouri Maize Project ( is the development of systematic descriptors and associated vocabulary for traits and phenotypes for Zea mays. These descriptors and associated vocabulary will be for the mutants and normal phenotypes of maize and should greatly assist the searching for and retrieval of information in the Maize database (MaizeDB - by users from all over the world via the world wide web. The curation of the MaizeDB will also be considerably assisted via this set of descriptors and associated vocabulary.

The descriptors and associated vocabulary are based on internationally recognized biological and botanical concepts and terminology and will encompass the breadth of terms generated by maize geneticists, breeders and other researchers working with mutant phenotypes. The descriptors are being developed in an expandable system of ‘containment hierarchies’ and will accommodate a range of appropriate ‘Levels of Observation’, from the macromorphological levels through the micromorphological levels and down to the physiological and molecular levels (see diagram). The access to information in MaizeDB via these descriptors and associated vocabulary should accommodate users from a broad spectrum of knowledge-backgrounds. Access to a glossary, a synonym facility, and images associated with terms in the glossary and synonyms will be provided to facilitate understanding of the descriptors and associated vocabulary.

Some of the development of descriptors and associated vocabulary is being assisted by contacts with colleagues at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (K), United Kingdom and at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO), USA. Through these and other contacts access to a large volume of existing grass descriptors from the World Grass database has been obtained. This information and that obtained from a variety of other sources form the basis of the contents of the ‘containment hierarchies’.

Furthermore, to facilitate those unfamiliar with the macromorphology, micromorphology, anatomy etc. of a corn/maize plant an interactive corn plant is being developed for access via the world wide web. This should be a very educational facility. Some of these innovations are represented in the accompanying flow-chart. For further information contact Leszek Vincent —


Please Note: Notes submitted to the Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter may be cited only with consent of the authors.

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