PLANTS AND PEOPLE- Botany 328- Laboratory


Laboratory 1: Plant Vegetative Morphology and Vegetables
 

INTRODUCTION

The goals of this laboratory exercise are to familiarize you with the vegetative morphology of flowering plants and to make you more aware of the different types of edible vegetables we use in our daily lives. Leaves, stems, and roots comprise the vegetative body of a flowering plant. Leaves are responsible for photosynthesis. Stems comprise the central axis and branches of a plant, a system which acts to transport photosynthates from the leaves to other organs of the plant and to transport water and nutrients from the roots. The system of stems and branches also serves to get the solar panels of the plant--the leaves--to the light. Together, leaves and stems are often referred to as shoots. Roots serve as anchors, holding the plant upright, and as sponges that extract water and nutrients from the soil. Many roots and stems are also modified for the storage of nutrients. These nutrients are in turn used by the plant to produce new growth.

Over the course of human evolution a diverse array of plant vegetative structures have been selected for their food value. The vegetables we eat today have a long history of artificial selection and cultivation. There was a time in the past when the ancestors of the plants we eat today were gathered from the wild to sustain the lives of our ancestors. Eventually, these wild plants were selected and modified through cultivation to support the growing population of human beings on this planet. We rely on many plant vegetative structures as food for ourselves as well as for our livestock.

By the end of this lab period you should be able to recognize the different vegetative structures of a typical flowering plant and to describe briefly the importance that each of these structures serves in the life of a plant. You should be able to recognize numerous edible vegetables by their common and scientific name and, in general, know what vegetative plant structure is represented by the vegetables on display. You should also gain a basic understanding and especially an appreciation of the diversity of geographic origins of cultivated plants. Stated in other words: we want you to know your food!

ACTIVITY

Can you match the common names listed below with the vegetables displayed? Study the vegetables provided, paying special attention to their morphological structure, family, scientific name, and geographic origin. Clicking on one of the thumbnail images will open a larger picture.
 
COMMON NAME

 IMAGE

FAMILY/SCIENTIFIC NAME STRUCTURE ORIGIN
alfalfa sprouts Fabaceae/Medicago sativa shoot Near East
aloe vera leaf
Agavaceae/ Aloe vera
leaf
Macaronesia (islands off the W. Coast of Africa) Lab card does not say this
asparagus Liliaceae/Asparagus officinalis



White asparagus is grown
covered with soil

shoot Mediterranean
bamboo shoots Poaceae/Bambusa vulgaris and others shoot Asia
bean sprouts (Mung)  Fabaceae/Vigna radiata whole plant Asia
beet Chenopodiaceae/Beta vulgaris root Mediterranean
bok-choi Brassicaceae/Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis



 

also baby bok choi

leaf Asia
broccoli raab, Italian turnip broccoli Brassicaceae/Brassica ruvo flower buds and leaves hybrid origin
brussels sprouts  Brassicaceae/Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera shoot  Europe
cabbage

Brassicaceae/Brassica oleracea var. capitata leaf  Mediterranean
cactus pad Cactaceae/Opuntia sp. stem New World
carrot Apiaceae/Daucus carota




Maroon carrots were developed at A&M.  They are higher in nutrients

root  Mediterranean
cassava/manioc/yuca  Euphorbiaceae/Manihot esculenta root S. America
celery
Apiaceae/Apium graveolens
 
 
 
 

celery root

petiole
 
 
 
 
 

root

Eurasia
chinese cabbage Brassicaceae/Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis leaf Asia
cilantro Apiaceae / Coriandrum satium leaf Mid-East
cinnamon  Lauraceae/Cinnamomum verum bark Sri Lanka/India
collard greens
Brassicaceae/Brassica oleracea var. viridis leaf  Europe
daikon Brassicaceae/Raphanus sativus var. niger root  Asia
endive Asteraceae / Cichorium endivia 
Belgian endive (pictured) is C. intybus
leaf Coastal Mediteranean
fennel Apiaceae/Foeniculum vulgare stem Mediterranean
garlic Liliaceae/Allium sativum





elephant garlic is much larger

stem (bulb) Asia
ginger Zingiberaceae/Zingiber officinale  stem  Asia
gobo root, Japanese burdock Asteraceae/Arctium lappa  root  Temperate Old World
horseradish
Brassicaceae/Armoracia rusticana
root cultivated, possibly Asia
jicama  Fabaceae/Pachyrhizus erosus root Mexico
kale  Brassicaceae/Brassica oleracea, various varieties, including colored leaf  Mediterranean
kohlrabi  Brassicaceae/Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes stem  Mediterranean
leek Liliaceae/Allium ampeloprasum, Leek Group (= Allium porrum) stem (bulb) Near East
lemon grass Poaceae/Cymbopogon citratus  stem and leaves  India and Sri Lanka? now only cultivated
lettuce


 

Asteraceae/Lactuca sativa

Iceberg = var. capitata
 
 
 

 



Bibb/Boston/Butterhead Lettuce = var. capitata
 
 
 



Curled or Leaf Lettuce = var. crispa
 
 
  
 Frizze Lettuce
 
 



Romaine or Cos= var. lonigifolia

leaf Eurasia
lotus "root" Nelumbonaceae/Nelumbo nucifera  stem (rhizome)  J. and SE. Asia
malanga, yawtia, tannia Araceae/Xanthosoma sagittifolium stem (corm)  Tropical America
maple syrup Aceraceae/Acer saccharum sap(stem) N. America
mushroom Agaricus bisporus spore-bearing body (not a plant!)  
mustard greens Brassicaceae/Brassica nigra leaf Eurasia
ong choy, kangkung, water spinach, swamp cabbage Convolvulaceae/Ipomoea aquatica
Federal Noxious weed!
shoot Africa, Asia, Australia, S. America
onion

Liliaceae/Allium cepa

red
 

yellow
 
 
 

green-tailled, scallion
 
 

pearl onion

stem (bulb) Asia
palm heart Arecaceae/ many genera shoot tropics
parsley
Apiaceae/Petroselinum crispum var. crispum
 
 

var. crispum  (left) and 
var. neapolitanum, Italian parsley (right)

leaf Eurasia
parsnip Apiaceae/Pastinaca sativa root  Mediterranean
potato

Solanaceae/Solanum tuberosum

red
 

Russet potato
 

finger potatoes
 

stem (tuber) South America
radicchio Asteraceae / Cichorium intybus leaf Mediteranean
radish Brassicaceae/Raphanus sativus root Asia
rhubarb Polygonaceae/Rheum x hybridum petiole Asia
rutabaga Brassica napus var. napobrassica root
Europe
salsify, oyster plant Tragopogon porrifolius root
Europe
shallot Liliaceae/Allium cepa stem (bulb) Asia
spinach Chenopodiaceae/Spinacia oleracea leaf Asia
sugar cane  Poaceae/Saccharum officinarum stem tropical Asia
sweet potato boniato Convolvulaceae/Ipomoea batatas root S. America
swiss chard  Chenopodiaceae/Beta vulgaris var. cicla leaf Mediterranean
taro root Araceae/Colocasia esculenta stem (corm) Old World tropics
turnip Brassicaceae/Brassica rapa subsp. rapa root Eurasia
water chestnut Cyperaceae/Eleocharis dulcis stem (corm) Old World tropics
water cress Brassicaceae/ Nasturtium officinale leaves Temperate Asia, Africa, Europe, etc. Widely naturalized
yam Dioscoreaceae/ Dioscorea sp. stem (tuber) Old World tropics

 

STUDY QUESTIONS

  1. What are the three main vegetative organs used for dietary purposes?

  2.  
  3. Sketch a leaf and label the parts.

  4.  
  5. Why are leaves so important to a plant? What purposes do they serve? Why are the leaves of a plant so important to life on planet Earth?

  6.  
  7. What are three ways that leaves can be arranged on a stem?

  8.  
  9. Draw a compound leaf and a simple leaf.

  10.  
  11. How can you tell the difference between monocots and dicots using leaf characteristics?

  12.  
  13. What purposes do stems serve in overall plant function?

  14.  
  15. Name one similarity and one difference between a carrot and a white potato. Think about function and vegetative structure.

  16.  
  17. Asparagus is the Cadillac of all vegetables. What part of the asparagus plant do we actually eat?

  18.  
  19. White potatoes are modified stems which grow underground. How can one tell that these vegetables are actually stems and not roots? What purpose does this stem modification serve in overall plant function?

  20.  
  21. What is an onion? Name the parts of an onion. What purpose does an onion serve in the overall function of the onion plant?

  22.  
  23. You should know by now that each of the vegetables we eat has a wild ancestor. Why might the wild ancestors of the common potato, sweet potato, and carrot have smaller underground organs than the cultivars which are grown by human beings?

  24.  
  25. What are two main types of root systems in flowering plants? How do monocot roots and dicot roots typically differ?

  26.  
  27. What is a brussels sprout?

  28.  
  29. Give the common name of four vegetables in the family Brassicaceae.

  30.  
  31. What are two functions of roots?

  32.  
  33. Carrots, radishes, and turnips are quite similar in structure and function. What do we call these structures and what is their main function?

  34.  
  35. What part of a mushroom do we eat? Is a mushroom a plant?



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    Last updated 9/7/2005
     Nomenclature conforms with World Economic Plants, a Standard Reference  by John H. Wiersema and Blanca León. 1999, CRC Publishing.