Course in general
Why do I have to take Botany 301?
But aren't plants boring?
Where do I get the course packets?
How do I figure my grade?
How can I do better in the course?
What can I do for extra credit?
Why do a bunch of things around the lab say 201 instead of 301?
Why do I have to take Botany 301? If this course is required for you, it is because the study of flowering plants is important to your major. For example, if you are going to work with wildlife, you will need to be able to identify animal food plants and plants which are toxic to animals. You will need to be able to know about the plants and how they function in a habitat. If you are going to be a doctor, you will need to know about poisonous plants and medicinal plants. If you plan to do any habitat studies or graduate research, you will need to know how to key out plants and how to make acceptable specimens.Lecture
But aren't plants boring? We don't think so. Can you make your own food? Reproduce yourself completely from your pinky? Form a symbiotic relationship with a fungus to get your food? Hybridize with another species or genus? Change your growth form depending on your habitat? "Hibernate" for years at a time? Poison or repel your enemies with a chemical you produce in your own body? Communicate with other people over a distance of many meters without using your voice or any electronics? Survive in the open in the arctic or the desert? Live to be over a thousand? Break stone with your bare hands? Plants can.
Where do I get the course packets? You can get the lab key and lab handouts at Copy Corner in Redmond Terrace. This is roughly at the corner of George Bush and Texas Avenue.
How do I figure my grade? The course is worth 900 points. Your grade for the course will be a straight percentage of points earned-90-100% is an A, and so on. It does not matter whether the points come from lab or lecture-they are all going to the same place. For example, you cannot figure your grade by thinking, "I have an A in lab and a C in lecture, so I should have a B."
How can I do better in the course? Study habits that will contribute to success in Botany 301 are the same as for any other course:
1. Read the assigned text before coming to class so you will be able to follow the instructor more easily.
2. Take good notes in lecture and then read them over as soon after class as possible. Refresh your memory and make note of anything which seems unclear, prompts a question, or requires further reading.
3. Set aside time(s) each week to study for the class. Schedule it just as you would an appointment or a job. If you work at it continuously, you will not have to cram for exams. A good rule of thumb is one hour for every hour of course credit, not counting time spent reading or extra studying for exams.
4. Know how you study best. Do you remember what you hear, what you read, or what you put hands on? Focus on getting the information in the form you use best.
5. Make use of supplemental materials such as the videos in the EDMS, books on course reserve, other library books, the course website, and the teaching staff.
6. Find ways to test yourself as you go. Make up practice questions, use flashcards for vocabulary, have a friend quiz you, use the review materials on-line.
7. If you study with a partner, choose your partner(s) carefully.
8. Eat, sleep, and exercise. A healthy mind requires a healthy body.
What can I do for extra credit? We will drop all but 10 key quizzes and all but 5 lab pop quizes. Thus, there are already a large number of "extra" points in the course, so extra credit is not available.
Why do a bunch of things around the lab say 201 instead of 301? Years ago, Taxonomy of Flowering Plants was a 200-level, 3-credit hour course, with one fewer lecture per week. After deciding that the course really was junior-level in content, the powers that be made it a 300-level course. If you see something marked 201, it means it probably dates from "the olden days". Just assume it's meant for you.
What happens if I miss lecture?-If you miss lecture, you should try to get the notes from someone else. Note overviews are available on-line at this page, but realize that Dr. Wilsson will say important things in lecture that aren't in the web notes.Lab
What happens if I miss a lecture exam? If you know ahead of time that you will be absent for a University-excused reason, contact Dr. Wilson to schedule a makeup as soon as you know about the absence. If you need to schedule an excused makeup after an absence, contact Dr. Wilson as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours of the missed exam.
Do I have to buy the textbook? Technically, no (the library has copies), but remember that the readings are assigned. It is a wonderful reference for both lecture and lab-good illustrations, review questions, and vocabulary sections.
Why do we skip around in the textbook? Science is constantly finding out new things about how plants are related. We present the families in a traditional arrangement that is easy to learn, but be aware that as the data come in, families and subclasses get rearranged. The textbook is fairly new and presents what is currently widely accepted but perhaps a little harder to learn.
Lab in General
Do I have to go to lab?
Do I have to go to my registered lab section?
But what if I miss a lab?
What do I bring to lab?
Can I bring food/drink/children to lab?
Do I have to go to lab? Yes. There will be graded work each week that cannot be made up without a University excuse.Key Quizzes
Do I have to go to my registered lab section? It is best if you do. That way, you will get to know the students in your lab and your TA will know which key quizzes you have had. Some labs are more crowded than others, and it is best if you go to your own section so that no section is overcrowded.
But what if I miss a lab? If you know ahead of time that you will miss a lab, please make arrangements with your TA to make it up as soon as possible-preferably before your lab or later in the same week. It is much more difficult to arrange a makeup after a week's lab has been taken down and the next one set up. If you have an unplanned, excused absence, arrange ASAP for a makeup of the lab and any quizzes. If you have an unexcused absence, you will not be able to make up graded work, but you should arrange to make up the lab so that you have seen the material.
What do I bring to lab? Bring your textbook and both lab packets--key and handouts. Bring your dissection tools. Bring your field log, if you have been collecting. Bring plants to work on after lab. Wear appropriate clothing. For field trip days dress for sun and mud and insects, bring your key, key quiz forms, something to write with and on, and water if you need it. When we go out to collect, also bring your press, plastic bags, diggers, clippers, and your field log.
Can I bring food/drink/children to lab? You may eat and drink in lab provided that you clean up after yourself. Recycling for aluminum cans is on the first floor. If food starts to be a distraction or a mess, the privilege will be revoked. Children old enough to amuse themselves can be brought to lab if you can make sure that they will not distract the instructor or the other students.
Why do we have to take key quizzes? Unless you want to memorize every plant on the planet, being able to identify a plant with a key is essential. Key quizzes let you practice this skill.
How many are we going to take? As many as we can give you. We will take the scores from your ten best and drop the others.
How can I do better on the key quizzes? Practice, practice, practice. It does get easier. Drill and drill with the vocabulary so that when you read a key, you know what it says. Study family characteristics. Family recognition can make keying much simpler. E.g., if you know the characteristics of the Fagaceae, you know that an aquatic herb is not going to belong there, so you can eliminate the Fagaceae without stopping to look it up.
Why do we have to take pop quizzes?
How many are we going to take?
How can I do better on the pop quizzes?
Why do we have to take pop quizzes? Pop quizzes cover material from the previous lab and the lab of the day. The purpose of the quiz is to get you to review what you have already learned and to take an advance look at what you are about to learn.
How many are we going to take? It will vary. We will take the scores from the best 5 and drop the others.
How can I do better on the pop quizzes? Pay attention in lab and draw where the lab handouts say draw, key where they say key, and compare where they say compare, etc. Review each lab soon after it is over, read and ask questions to clarify anything you're still unsure of. Review again before the next lab. Look over each lab beforehand.
Why are we doing this?
How are they set up?
What kind of questions are on the practical?
How do I study for the practical?
Why are we doing this? Botany is largely hands-on, so a practical examination tests what you know in appropriate way. Plants in the field do not come with name tags, so we will stress sight-recognition of important subclasses, families and genera. It is also important to be able to interpret what you see, so lab practicals include questions about structure, terminology, and function.The Plant Collection
How are they set up? Expect 20 stations with 1 to 3 questions at each station. You will have a timed 1.5 minutes per station with 5 minutes at the end to go back and have another look at any station you need to (as long as there is only one student per station.) There may be a bonus question worth up to 3 points.
What kind of questions are on the practical? Questions are of several kinds. There are straight identification questions-Give the subclass, family, and/or genus of this plant. (You will know ahead of time which plants your are expected to be able to identify). There are structural questions-What is this pin in? What is its function? What is this fruit/inflorescence type? There are relationship questions-Name 3 primitive features in this specimen. How do you tell these two apart? There will also be questions over the plant collection and field trips. Sample questions will be set up the week before the first practical.
How do I study for the practical? Good study begins in lab, when you observe carefully and draw, key, and compare as directed. There is no substitute for getting your hands on the plants. After lab, review your handouts-what vocabulary was introduced? What special structures did you study? What made each family distinctive? What are the family characters present on the herbarium specimens that indicate placement in subclass, family, and genus? Do not wait until the night before the practical to study. Most weeks, there is ample time in lab to sit and review the previous weeks' material.
Why do I have to do a plant collection?
When is it due?
Why can't I collect cultivated plants?
How can I tell if something is cultivated?
Why can't I collect on main campus?
But I don't have a car. How am I supposed to collect off campus?
Can I collect outside the local area?
How do I know if something is too rare to collect?
Why do I have to do a plant collection? Experience has shown us that it is when students collect, dissect, and identify their own plants that they begin to "own" and remember the terminology, morphology, and family characteristics the course is meant to teach. Also, field collecting teaches observation of habitat and encourages good specimen preparation. Keying familiarizes students with the kinds and quality of reference materials available. It's not just busy work!
When is it due? The collection is due in parts. Check your syllabus for the dates.
Why can't I collect cultivated plants? Cultivated plants are often hybrids between species (or genera), or they have been bred for beyond- normal variation in form, color, and number of parts. As such, they often aren't readily identifiable. Cultivated plants are often foreign in origin, and the emphasis in Botany 301 is on native plants. And finally, there really isn't a good key for cultivated material.
How can I tell if something is cultivated? Locally, any flowering tree or shrub in a yard is likely cultivated, and just about any tree might be. Think of how construction usually occurs-all the plants are removed and then a landscape is planted. Only rarely are native plants left in place. Thus, in many yards, the only non-cultivated things are weeds. The grounds of apartments, schools, churches, cemeteries, and shopping areas are the same. Dead giveaways can be: plants that show signs of pruning; the presence of mulch, stakes, nursery tags, etc.; plants in a straight line; plants that are familiar from campus (Ligustrum, crapemyrtle, Asiatic jasmine, etc.) or from the grocery store (pears, apples, squash, melons, etc.); or the presence of old buildings, foundations, chimney stones, fences, etc. in what looks like a "vacant" lot.
Why can't I collect on main campus? Most of the plants on main campus are cultivated-see the previous question. Also, if someone sees you digging things up or snipping bits of trees and shrubs, they will assume that it is all right to mutilate the plants on campus and soon there will be nothing left.
But I don't have a car. How am I supposed to collect off campus? Ride a bike, take a shuttle bus, carpool with a friend, or walk. You needn't go far to find plants for your project.
Can I collect outside the local area? Absolutely! We have books that cover anything in Texas, and there are floras available for much of the U.S. You may want to check with Monique before you go, just to make sure there is a book you can use.
How do I know if something is too rare to collect? A good rule of thumb is: if you see 20, you can have 1. Likewise, never take more than 1/20 of a woody plant. If you cannot recognize the local endangered orchid, Spiranthes parksii, it is best to leave all orchids alone. All cacti save prickly pear can be considered rare for the purposes of this project.
Actually Collecting and Pressing the SampleDrying the Plants
How much of each plant do I get?
Do I need to get the roots?
My roots are all muddy/sandy. What do I do?
Do I need to get flowers and fruit?
How do I press bulky fruits?
How do I press very tall herbs?
How much newspaper do I press in?
How do I press weird things like cacti or aquatic plants?
When should I press what I collect?
How do the plants go in the press?
How tight does the press need to be?
Can I get more cardboards and blotters?How much of each plant do I get? It's usually sufficient to get one or two specimens to press (several, if the plants are tiny) and some extra material to key from. This extra material need not always be a whole plant. Try to be a bit conservative and not gather vastly more than you will need.
Do I need to get the roots? Collections of trees, shrubs, or woody vines (like grape or snailseed) do not need roots. Herbaceous plants do need to have roots attached.
My roots are all muddy/sandy. What do I do? Knock off what you can without damaging the roots. Remove the rest by swishing the roots in a bucket of water. Please do not rinse mud into the lab sink! Dump muddy water outdoors. Sandy soil on roots can usually be shaken off before pressing or brushed off when the plant is dry. Please try to remove loose soil before turn-in time.
Do I need to get flowers and fruit? Your specimens must be fertile: flower or fruit must be present. Having both is preferable, but it isn't always possible.
How do I press bulky fruits? If they are completely dry (as is often the case with acorns and other nuts), try to leave them on the sample. Pad the sample with a sheet of foam (you can get it from us) so that the leaves do not wrinkle. If the dry fruits are loose, turn them in inside a paper envelope marked with your name and the plant's collection number-put this envelope inside the newspaper surrounding the specimen. If a bulky fruit is wet (e.g., persimmon, horse-apple), it should be removed and sectioned and the sections pressed in wax paper. Try to get both longitudinal and cross-sections. Turn in the dried pieces inside the newspaper surrounding the specimen. Never put anything in baggies--it will mold!
How do I press very tall herbs? Try to fold the specimen into a V or N or W. Most plants will fit in the press this way. It is always best to try to avoid cutting the specimen up. If, however, you have an herb that just refuses to fit in one sheet of newspaper, ask your TA or Monique for guidance in how to prepare the specimen.
How much newspaper do I press in? One page (=1 half sheet), folded. Imagine page A1 / A2 of a paper. That is all. Fold it in half. Make your plants fit inside the newspaper. Remember, it is not the newspapers that pull the moisture out of your plants, it is the blotters in your press. The paper is just there to hold all the parts of a specimen together and to give you a place to write your collection number and other info.
How do I press weird things like cacti or aquatic plants? Cacti have to be cut open or sectioned and scooped out, then salted or brushed with alcohol so they won't rot. This is not hard with prickly pears but can be difficult with other types. Get Monique or your TA to show you how. Aquatic plants can often be floated onto a sheet of paper and the sheet of paper put into the press. We have pans in lab that can be used for doing this.
When should I press what I collect? Pressing right in the field is best, especially if you open up the press a little later and re-position anything that needs it. If you can't press in the field, keep the plants as cool and moist as you can and press as soon as possible. An ice chest (but not right on the ice) or a fridge is all right for a short time, but after a day or so, the plants will not be so good for pressing.
How do the plants go in the press? It's like making lasagne: press half, cardboard, blotter, plant in 1 page of newspaper, blotter, cardboard, blotter, plant in newspaper, etc.
How tight does the press need to be? How tight can you get it? Try having someone stand on it while you tighten the straps. The straps will loosen as the plants dry, so re-tighten them occasionally.
Can I get more cardboards and blotters? Certainly. We have a whole stash. Please take them out of your press when you don't need them any more, though, so your press will take up less room in the dryer.
The Field LogHow long do the plants need to stay in the press? Until they're dry.
Okay, smarty pants, how long will that be? This depends on what you have (small things vs. big, juicy things), how much you have (a little vs. a very full press), and whether or not you're using the dryers in room 004. Generally, most plants will dry in those dryers in 5 to 7 days. Wet things take longer.
Is there a way to make wet stuff dry more quickly? Yes. Try to spread the plant out on the newspaper. Change the newspaper and blotters around the plants frequently. Put wet stuff toward the outside of the press and the drier plants near the middle. Separate them with some empty cardboards, if possible.
Can I take the press out of the dryer while plants are drying? Yes, you can take your press out to remove dry things or to collect and press more things. The plants have to stay in the press until they're dry, but the press can go in and out of the dryer.
How can I tell if my plant is dry? Plants are dry when they no longer feel cool or damp. Thin plants will feel like paper and thick plants will not be wet-floppy. You will not be able to make a wet crease in a plant with a fingernail. Our dryers are set low enough that you needn't fear overdrying, so if in doubt, leave it in the press.
What do I do with a plant once it's dry? When a specimen is dry, take it out of the press (both to make more room and to keep it from absorbing moisture from wet plants) and put it someplace warm, dry, and safe. Make sure anyone you live with knows that it is your collection and not newspaper for recycling.
What if I can't/don't want to use the dryers in 004 Butler? If you don't use our dryers, put your place somewhere warm, dry, and drafty, preferably where air can flow through the corrugates. Try setting the press edge on to a box fan so air can blow through it. Heat and/or pressure is not enough-there must be air movement. Thus, leaving your press in a hot car all day will not dry it-you will get hot, wet plants. Parking a truck on the press will make flat, wet plants.
Can I use silica gel? No. You will get 3-dimensional, brittle plants and lose lots of points.
Can I dry plants in the oven? It's not recommended. This is a good way to set a press on fire! The only thing we recommend this for is cacti-and even then, set the oven at no more than 120F and only set the press in the oven for a few hours. Oven-drying results in discolored plants that will lose points.
How about the microwave? No. Trust us. This just doesn't work.
Will you know if I used silica gel, the oven, or the microwave? Yes.
Keying out Plants -Please see Keying Guidelines for detailed info.When do I do this? Make your entries when you collect the plants. Note the location, date, habitat, height, fruit and/or flower color in the field. That way, you won't go crazy trying to remember, and you can easily transfer the into to your labels later. Don't concoct a field log the night before it's due.
How do I know what county I'm in? Check a map. We have a big book of county maps in the lab, and there are other maps in the library's map room.
How do I write my location? Pretend that you are providing transporter coordinates, not driving directions. Your lab packet has some examples. If you are in a town, give the town. If you are not in a town, give the direction and distance from some marker in the nearest town. Next, give direction and distance from some marker. A good marker is the junction of two named or numbered roads. If you're on a roadside, tell what side of the road you're on, or which corner of an intersection.Examples: College Station; north (front) lawn of 1313 Mockingbird Lane.If you are out on a ranch, after you give the direction and distance to the nearest town, give the road that the ranch entrance is on and tell where on the ranch you are-reference the main house, a particular barn, a boundary fence, etc. If you are having trouble, ask your TA or Monique.
Bryan; 3 meters S. and 4 meters E. intersection of Dexter and Park Place.
W. side of Hwy 567, 3 mi S. jct. FM 1234, 8 mi S. jct. First Street in Mapleton, TX.
Why does the location matter so much? It may well be that someone will need to revisit your location to collect more of the plant, plot a population, get a sample for research. Pretend your collections are sure cures for cancer and that lives depend on being able to go right back to them.
How do I know what to put in the habitat? Your collection guidelines tell you what you need-at least four things. Sun/shade-tell whether the plant is in the sun or not if the sun is out. If it would only get morning sun or afternoon sun, say that. Tell whether the site is moist, dry, wet, muddy, etc. Describe the soil-color is not very useful, but tell whether the soil is sandy (feels gritty), silty (feels floury), or clay (can be squeezed into a lump if moist). Tell what other plants are present-list them by genus if you can. This is easy to do if you've collected more than one thing at any location. Describe the land use-pasture, vacant lot, yard, roadside, pond margin, bottomland forest, mowed/unmowed, grazed/ungrazed, etc.
What about the weather? Do not include the weather, since it changes. Exceptions are permanent weather patterns. For example, if you collect on a mountainside, it might always be windy.
How do I measure my plants? Measure from the ground up. This is a hands-on measurement for herbs. For trees, shrubs, and woody vines, give a good estimate. Vines have a length to which they crawl or a height to which they climb. For reference, a 1-story building is about 10 ft. tall.
Should I take data in metric or English units? It doesn't matter, as long as your units are labeled and clear. E.g., if you put "m," do you mean miles or meters? If you use cm, make sure you know what one is.
What about fruit/flower color? Record what you see fresh. Colors change as plants dry. Do not write what a book says the color should be.
What do I put for growth form? Choose from tree, shrub, herb, or vine. Do not use "forb", "grass", "epiphyte", or "flower".
I lost a plant/decided not to use a plant/ re-collected a plant, what do I do with the collection number? Number your plants in the order you collect them. Do not reuse numbers. When you get a new plant, it gets its own new number.
I found a plant I skipped numbering. Now what? If you find you have skipped numbering a plant, put it in where it goes and give it an -A or -B suffix. E.g., plant #10-A might have to go in between #9 and #10.
Why can't I use a picture book? For every plant that gets its picture in a book, there are 10 other species that look like it that don't get in the book. Picture books are incomplete. Their nomenclature also tends to be faulty or out of date. A picture book may be good to help you to a first guess, but it should never be used for identification.
Turning in the CollectionWhat about on-line identification? For every plant that gets its picture on-line, there are 10 other species that look like it that don't get featured. Web sites can be incomplete. Their nomenclature can also be unstable, faulty, or out of date.
Where do I get the authorities? Get them from the key, when you key. Don't waste time having to go back and look them all up afterwards. In the keying books, the authorities are not in the couplet part of the key to species (to save space), they are in the species descriptions that follow the key. You should be reading the species descriptions anyway, to see if they match your plants.
What if there are two authorities? If there are two, such as in the name Nothoscordum bivalve (L.) Britt.), it means that the first author (the one in parentheses) originally described the species and the other author reclassified it in its current position. You need to record both, because you would want to read both authorities' works to learn about the taxonomy of the species. NOTE that if there is a single authority, it does not go in ( ). This is different from how zoologists write animal names.
CheatingWhat do I turn in? Each time you turn in plants, turn in the plants in their newspapers in A to Z order, the labels tucked in the newspapers of the plants, and a summary sheet with the plants listed in A-Z order. You will turn in all of this in a large manila folder available in lab. When you turn in the final collection, turn in old and new labels, all the old summary sheets, and a new summary sheet with all 20 plants on it.
Should the labels be in ink or pencil? Either, as long as they are neat and legible. Please do not use red ink.
What about white-out? How do I fix errors? Errors may be whited out or lined through neatly.
I need more labels. How do I get one? You may run a sheet of blank labels through a copier, or print off some from our print-a-label page.
Can I make labels and summary sheets on my computer? Yes, if you make sure they have the same layout and the same blanks as the ones we supply. They are much harder to grade if they are in a different format.
What can I fix from my first 5 and middle 10? Misidentifications, poor locations, habitat statements, color, wrong dates, wrong measurements. Loose soil can be removed. Damp plants can be dried. Ratty newspapers can be replaced. Plants that are too tall can be carefully re-folded. If you correct a label, turn in both the old and new label in the final collection. Small corrections may be made to the original label in a different color of ink (but not red.)
What can I not fix from my first 5 and middle 10? Good specimens cannot be put in for bad ones. You may not replace sterile, cultivated, or non-angiosperm plants, or anything beyond 2 from the "only 2" list. Check those things carefully the first time. Any plant that is in your first 5 or middle 10 has to be in your final collection.
What if I turn in more than 20 plants? We really only have time to grade 20 plants per student. We will grade the first 20 on your list that include the plants you have turned in previously. If one of your old plants is missing, we will put back the points it got and take away one of your new plants.
So does anyone ever get an A on this? Absolutely! And every semester, we have someone make 99 or 100. Since you can check all your identifications and labels and such beforehand, there's no reason you can't make a perfect score.
Can my buddies and I collect together? You may go out to collect together, but you must collect your own plants.
What about working together on the ID's and labels? No go. We want you to hone your own identification and writing-up skills. You learn by doing, and if you're teaming up, you're learning a fraction of what you need to know.
Can you really tell if two people worked together? Yes we can.
What about stolen collections? We keep the dryers locked and lock up the room when not in use, so it's unlikely someone will take your plants. To be on the safe side, though, don't make your collection attractive to thieves: keep your identifications in your log, not on your newspapers in the press; never leave your collection unattended; and make sure you hand it in to a person, not a pile. Submit your field log after each collecting trip so that we know you've been collecting.
I heard you busted a thief a while back. Is that true? Yes, it is. All of the reported-stolen collections over the years have been recovered and the thieves treated to an F in the course. We usually push for expulsion or suspension from the University. Theft of a plant press is theft of state property, stealing someone's collection is theft of private property, and turning in someone else's work as your own is scholastic dishonesty. We prosecute.
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last updated January 8, 2002