All who analyze integrative, whole organism processes (and maybe all biologists) share some of the difficulties facing the six blind men trying to determine the shape of an elephant by examining at its separate parts. It is particularly important to recognize the message about the need for an integrated view in this age-old parable when dealing with the complexities of whole organism integrative processes such as whole plant senescence. The component processes of whole plant senescence need to be viewed together, and interconnection is an important theme here. Whole plant senescence is an important and interesting phenomenon whose analysis is tractable; however, progress can be hindered by unnecessary controversy and monolithic ideas. Some of these problems will be discussed specifically below (whole plant senescence is covered by Section II) under rules of evidence.

This is a huge and very complex literature, much of it out of reach of (older than) searchable digital databases. Compounding these difficulties, important information relevant to whole plant senescence is often buried within papers where senescence is not an obvious theme or even a keyword. This field cannot be covered in depth with a short summary. Nonetheless, an overview with some updating on key issues seems useful, especially for non-specialists.

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