Fall 2002

We asked you to tell us what interests you have in botany. Despite the small class size, this is a very diverse group of answers. Here is what you said you wanted to learn more about:

Medicinal Plants/Herbs/Health Care..............4
  Wildlife Habitats/Foods.........................3
Fresh or Dried Flowers..........................3
Aquatic Plants/Marine Plants/Aquaria............3
Trees and Arboriculture.........................3
  Ethnobotany/Useful Plants.......................2
Edible Plants/Nutrition/Food/Herbs..............2
  Rangeland Ecology/Grasses/Livestock.............1
Succulents and Cacti............................1
Rainforest Plants...............................1
Teaching Biology................................1
Pollination/Ecology ............................1
General/Plants and People.......................1
  Plant Pathology.................................1

We can recommend books and techniques that can help you learn more about these things within the BOTN 301 context. What you get out of this course depends on how much you are willing to put in. We'll be glad to help you however we can.
Most books mentioned on this page are ones we have. We can also recommend others the library might have. Just ask your TA or Monique.  If you find a link in this document that is not working, please let us know!


While the focus of this course is wild plants, learning about plant families will help you, because wild and cultivated members of a family are similar in structure and often in preference for growing conditions. Monique has a degree in Floriculture, so you can ask her lots of questions...


Dr. Wilson  has included some information on medicinal plants in his lectures, and there is some in your text. In addition:


    Books--We have two books specifically about wildlife habitats, the Eastern and Western volumes of Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats by Benyus. Try Imes' The Practical Botanist for an overview of plants in the environment and different types of habitats. In addition, many of the keys and manuals have notes about each plant's usefulness to wildlife. For example, Elias' The Complete Trees of North America goes into great detail, Correll & Johnston's Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas often has info, and Monique's black key also includes wildlife food uses. In addition, we have several general books on ecology and plant habitats.
    In the Field--Pay attention to what animals eat and where they live. Collect and identify samples of plants that they use. Visit and study the habitats and ecosystems that interest you most. Be curious. Take notes, draw, collect, take photos. You may want to look into Outdoor Rec trips or go somewhere neat to collect. Whenever possible, go out in the field with someone who knows the environment and ask lots of questions.
    Plant Collection--You might want to make your collection from just a few locations that represent ecosystems you want to know more about. Conversely, you might want to make it as broadly-based as possible. Either way, look at what's around you when you're out collecting. If you are interested in wildlife, you can try 1) collecting plants that you know are used by wildlife and 2) reading to determine if other plants you collect have uses you didn't know about.
    In Lab and Lecture--Listen. Little bits about animal ecology find their way into lecture. On field trips, we'll talk a lot about important different plant communities and ecosystems. Learn about the major families and what their presence tells you about a habitat or community. When we go on field trips, we will mention some plants that animals eat (such as grapes, acorns, hawthorn fruits, etc.), and we will talk about what animals can be found locally. Ask questions!


Everyone likes to get flowers.

In Lecture and Lab--We really won't talk too much about cut flowers and floral arrangements in this course, but we will go over major plant families that common florist's flowers come from--Caryophyllaceae, Rosaceae, etc.  If you keep your eyes open, you will learn about your favorites.

In the Field--Look for plants that have cut-flower potential.  Wouldn't some of the native grasses be nice?  In the fall, look for the ornamental berries of holly, snail-seed, and beauty-berry.

Plant Collection--You could collect only things you think would make good arrangements.  One for the press, one to key from, one for the vase!

Websites Related to Cut Flowers (no endorsements implied)
  Calyx and Corolla
  How to Make Cut Flowers Last
  How to Preserve Leaves and Flowers with Glycerine
  How to Dry Flowers--But do NOT do this for your plant collection!!!


   Books--We have two good sets of books on aquatic and wetland plants (including coastal)--one set for the Southeast, and one
     for the Southwest. Both have good illustrations. We also have the Flora of the TX Coastal Bend and Plants of Southernmost
     TX, both of which are useful. Correll and Johnston does cover the coast. We have books on tidal marsh plants. We have
     access to some government publications, too. The botany staff has done a lot of bog-trotting in the last couple of years, so we
     can be of more help with wetland plants now than ever.  We have two books specifically about wildlife habitats, the Eastern
     and Western volumes of Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats by Benyus.

     In the Field/Plant Collection--You are welcome to collect aquatic angiosperms. Be aware of two things, however. 1--There
     are cultivated plants that occasionally escape along the coast or into waterways--these may not be keyable. 2--In damp
     environments, things take longer to dry. There are special techniques for collecting floating plants--ask Monique to show you.

     In Lecture/Lab--Keep an eye out for families which have aquatic members or which are salt-tolerant or otherwise adapted to
     aquatic or marine life.

     Aquatic and Marine Plant Web Sites


We like trees, too. In fact, one of the teaching staff (we won't say who) wanted to be a tree when s/he was little because, "trees are nicer than people."

Books--Meetings with Remarkable Trees is a look at large, memorable trees.  Common Reader has several other good books on the subject.  The August 1997 issue of Smithsonian had a great article on treehouses.  We do have several illustrated guides to the trees of North America, including the out-of-print Complete Trees of North America by Elias, which includes good info on wood properties and uses.  We have an atlas of tree species, which shows range information for important hardwoods and gymnosperms.  Then there's the Woody Plant Seed Manual, full of seed yield, germination, and production figures for a number of species.

In Lecture and Lab--You will meet a lot of trees in the class, learn about their families, their uses, and their ecology.  On the Field Trip, you will get to see the local post oak savannah and woods in several stages of succession.

Plant Collection–You may certainly collect trees.  Just remember that handbooks and field guides are *not* keys and should not be used for full identification.  Also, this is not a leaf collection as you may have made in high school or for a dendro course.  Twig and flower or fruit are necessary.

Books-- We have some good references on useful and cultivated plants.  Kindscher's Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie and Medicinal Plants of the Prairie have information on how Native Americans used plants.  We also have the monumental Native American Ethnobotany and volume 1 of The Useful Wild Plants of Texas (etc.).  Then there is the great work World Economic Plants.  We can also dig up works on fiber plants, weaving, and dyeing for you.

In Lecture--Dr. Wilson knows a lot about ethnobotany.  He has done a lot of research on Chenopod and Cucurbit crops of the Americas.  He will also talk about wheat and other crop plants.

In the Field--Really examine the plants you see.  Which could be used for fiber? Basketry? Shelter? Dyes?  Useful plants are all around you.

Plant Collection--You could focus your collection on potentially useful plants, test all of your samples to see if they make good dyeplants, or research any useful properties of whatever you find.

Web sites related to Ethnobotany
        Mexican Folk Remedies
        Plants for a Future-- Database
        Ethnobotanical Leaflets--an electronic journal
        Ethnobotany--academic resources
        Kew's Ethnobotanical Links


Boy, are you in luck! This is the main thing we deal with--What is that plant? How can I tell it from all the others? Where else does it grow? The whole lab and lecture are geared toward giving an understanding of the major families and their distinguishing features. Just by staying awake in class, you should learn plenty. We will also talk about the origins and distributions of plants--which ones are cosmopolitan, which strictly New World, which Old World, etc.

Books--We have manuals and floras that cover the whole state and many parts of the U.S. These will help you identify plants.  We also have picture books which will give you an idea of what's out there in a non-scientific way. If it's classical taxonomy and learning how to identify plants you want, we have good books on those, too. Just tell Monique what you want, and she can steer you in the right direction.

In the Field--Practice sight-identification of major families and genera. Quiz yourself and your friends. Try to botanize in as many different places as possible. Make notes, take pictures, draw. Bring back unknowns to identify.

    Plant Collection--You can either collect the unknown plants you want to identify or put together a collection of plants that you have learned to identify. Either way, the more you collect and key, the better you will be at keying. Eventually, you will develop a feel for plants that helps as much as technical knowledge.

    In Lab --Really study and learn the key characters for families and genera. Practice with keys. Work on getting that "feel" for  what's what. Make good use of the lab space and books available.

    Taxonomy-related Web sites:

    Books--One of the best for edible natives of Texas is Tull's A Practical Guide to Edible and Useful Plants. She has also published Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide, which we don't yet have but which is readily available. We do have Kindscher's Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie and the Medves' Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania. We have Native American Ethnobotany, World Economic Plants, and the huge two-volume Cambridge World History of Food.  In addition, many keys and manuals have information about edibility listed for each plant. You may also want to look at the AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants to learn what not to eat.  We can also recommend lots of good vegetarian (and other) cookbooks.
    In the Field--Be on the lookout for edible plants. Please eat only what you KNOW is safe and can positively identify. Don't try too many new things at once. If something is rare, don't harvest too much. Keep notes!!!
    Plant Collection--It would be a challenge to make a collection of only edible plants, but it could be done and probably would be fun. Or, you might want to concentrate on learning if any of the plants you collect are edible.  You could also focus on wild relatives of domesticated edible plants you like.
    In Lecture and Lab--In lecture, much will be made of the major food families. On the lab field trips, we will look at (and try!) some of the local wild edibles. Ask lots of questions--and get Monique's Rumex soup recipe...


We won't be talking too much about turf this semester, but we will talk about the Poaceae, the family to which all grasses belong.  Grasses, as monocots, have some special growth characteristics, and we'll point these out, too.  The person who said they were interested in mowing lawns is welcome to go over and do Monique's.

Turfgrass Links
     Texas Turfgrass Association
     Turfgrass Info from the Texas Extension Service
     Turf at A&M
     Weed Alert--mostly for turf and garden weeds.  You can win a mousepad!
      Lots and Lots and Lots of Turf Links


    Books--We have North American Range Plants, a good guide to some of the more important plants. Some of the keys, such as the Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas and Grasses of Texas have information about livestock uses for each plant. One of our weed books goes into detail about which plants are harmful or useful for stock and which plants will take over and ruin a good pasture or cropland.  Come by the herbarium to read a good Smithsonian article on intensive farming. We also have an interesting book on the lost or little-grown grain crops of Africa, many of which would be suitable for Texas.
    In the Field--Watch what stock eat, and what they avoid. Make notes, draw, take pictures. Practice sight-identifying important range plant families such as grasses and legumes. Observe crop-weed interactions in fields.  Bring unknowns back to the lab to key them.

    Plant Collection--You might want to make a collection of just range plants--useful or harmful. You could focus on wild relatives of cultivated crop plants such as cotton, alfalfa, or sorghum. Collect plants that interest you.

    In Lecture and Lab-Pay special attention to important grazing and crop plant families like grasses and legumes. On the field trip, we will see and talk about what happens to overgrazed pastures and how ungrazed pastures go back to prairie and forest.

    Web sites related to Livestock and Range Plants

    Books--We have Trees and Shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas, Vines' Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of the Southwest , and a beautiful book on trees and shrubs of the U.S. southwest. We have Cacti of Texas by Weniger, Bowers’ Shrubs and Trees of the Southwestern Deserts, Trees, Shrubs, and Cacti of South Texas by Everitt and Drawe, and Northern Chihuahuan Desert Wildflowers by West. The library has Benson's monumental work on cacti, as well as a nice two-volume flora of New Mexico, including desert areas. There are also good floras for Arizona and Utah.

    In the Field-- Be on the lookout for common desert plant families, many of which we will cover in lecture. Since many desert plants are rare, learn about rare and endangered species before you go, so you know which to avoid collecting.

    Plant Collection--If you collect desert plants for this course, remember that succulent plants take a little longer to dry. Monique can recommend hints for dealing with cacti and other stubborn plants.

    Books--Most of our library deals with Texas plants, but we can certainly recommend books about tropical plants. Tropica is a huge book full of pictures of exotics. We also have a book full of unusual fruit. We can certainly steer you to other sources on tropical and rainforest plants.

    In Lab and Lecture--We will be studying families that have members in the tropics. What you learn in class will help you understand tropical plants to some extent. You may want to talk to Dr . Wilson about his treks in Costa Rica.

    The Plant Collection--You might want to collect plants from families that have many tropical members. If you are lucky enough to get to collect in the tropics, be sure to let us know ahead of time so that we can help you dig up the references you'll need.

    Web sites related to Tropical Botany


This course will introduce you to various teaching tools--dissection work, field trips, lectures, videos, slides, plant collection, and the Internet. You will also try several types of exams and quizzes. The teaching techniques we use on you this semester may help you define what sort of teaching style you want to adopt.

    Books--One of the best all-around books is Imes' Practical Botanist, which is available for you to read in lab. It's out of print, but looking on line will probably turn up a copy.

    Plant Collection-- If you would like to keep your plant collection to start your own teaching collection, you are certainly welcome to do so. You might want to focus on large, common families that will be present wherever you end up teaching.

    There are lots of good teaching websites out there. We like to think our Lab Tutorials and our on-line Lecture Notes are good examples.


We will definitely talk about ecology in this class

    Books--A number of the books listed under "Wildlife" (above) might be of interest. If it is books about particular plants or pollinators you are interested in, just let us know, and we'll point you in the right direction.
    In the Field--Learn to look at where you are.  In the local environment, you can explore the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie regimes. You may also find bogs, outcrops, and agricultural areas.  Observe which pollinators are present. What are the plants using to attract pollinators?  Which plants are wind-pollinated?
    Plant Collection--You might want to collect from one type of habitat that interests you most, or you might want to get plants from as many different ecosystems as possible. You could try to identify the pollinators of the plants you collect..
    In Lecture and Lab--Keep your ears perked up, because we will be talking about ecology. When we take the field trip, we'll have a chance to explore several distinct ecosystems.


You are going to learn so much general stuff and soooo much plant trivia this semester that you will be amazed. Have a look at Mabberley's The Plant Book--there is something fun on every page. Also try talking to Monique. She is a veritable fountain of bizarre and esoteric information... If we say something this semester that intrigues you, let us know. We'll be glad to steer you in a direction to find out what you need to know. Have a look at the other topics discussed here.  You might also look into taking Botany 328--Plants and People, a course devoted to food, medicine, drug, dye, fiber, and fuel plants.  In the meantime, there's a lot of general fun stuff at Wayne's World.

A weed is just a plant that is growing where it's unwanted.  If roses come up in your alfalfa, they're weeds.
Books--We have several good resources to help you identify weedy plants.  Weeds of the West is useful, as is North American Range Plants. Gould's Grasses of Texas is very helpful for identifying weedy grasses.  If you're interested in a specific species, let us know.

In Lecture and Lab--There are several families that tend to be weedy or have many weedy members.  In particular, you will meet the Amaranthaceae, Polygonaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Asteraceae, and Euphorbiaceae.

Plant Collection-- You could very easily make a reference collection consisting solely of weedy taxa.  If you collect noxious weeds, though, please make sure you aren't spreading seeds, roots, or stems that could give rise to more weeds!

Websites for Weed Enthusiasts
     Federal Noxious Weed List
     Community Weed Laws
     Agricultural Weed ID
     Weed Alert--mostly for turf and garden weeds.  You can win a mousepad!
     Orobanche ramosa in Texas--this has become a serious problem locally
     Japanese dodder--now a problem in Houston.  Images from the TAMU Image Gallery
     Lycianthes  asarifolia--eating lawns in Houston
     Kudzu in Texas

We will not be discussing plant pathology in detail in this course.  However, as you're out and about, you will probably have opportunities to look for pathological conditions in the local plants.  Two years of drought have not helped, and you can find nutrient deficiencies, viruses, bacterial or fungal infections, and parasites.
 Books-- There are any number of technical volumes about plant pathology.  If you are looking for something well-researched yet easy to read that will give advice about fighting pests and diseases in the home garden, look for anything by Rodale Press.  They offer sound, safe, organic advice.
Plant collection--Diseased plants are often hard to identify because they may be altered from the norm.  If you want to make a collection of plants showing disease, you must include a healthy individual of each species as well.

Plant Pathology Websites
        Plant Pathology Internet Guidebook
        American Phytopathological Society
        Plant Pathology in the Public Interest
        Practices for Disease Management in Traditional Farming Systems

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Last updated by Monique Dubrule Reed on September 9, 2002