Spring 2000

We asked you to tell us what interests you have in botany. This was the most diverse group of responses in a long time. Some people didn't respond, or answered "none," but many folks listed something. Here is what you said you wanted to learn more about:

 Medicinal Plants/Herbs/Homeopathy/Aromatherapy.14
 Wildlife Habitats/Foods........................10
 Native Plants/Wildflowers......................10
 Edible Plants/Nutrition.........................6
 Unusual Plants..................................3
 Perfumes and Aromatic Plants....................2
 Poisonous/Toxic Plants..........................2
 Stages of Plant Growth..........................2
 Rainforest Plants...............................2
 General/Plants and People.......................3
 Aquatic Plants/Wetlands.........................1
 Teaching Biology................................1
 Genetics/Genetically Enhanced Plants............1
 Poison Ivy......................................1
 Smoking Plants..................................1
 Plant Biochemistry..............................1
 Growing an orange tree..........................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.


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. Manhart 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!


This is our most favorite thing!  The study of what's out there is called floristics.  Dr. Manhart and Monique both have interests in the local flora.

    Books--We have a good collection of books on Texas plants--some are picture books and some are technical keys. We either have or can recommend some good regional floras. For example, Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country by Marshall Enquist is a good reference. Have a look in the lab book cabinet. Monique has lots of info on growing wildflowers and using native plants in the landscape.
    In the Field--Practice identifying what you see. Take notes, draw, take pictures, bring things in to identify. Visit as many different habitats as possible and learn what's in them.
    Plant Collection--Whatever you collect and key will teach you something. There is so much out there that you might want to focus on the plants that interest you most.
    In Lecture and Lab--Stay awake! You can learn a lot just from the examples. Many of our lecture examples and quite a lot of our lab dissection materials are native plants. Key quizzes will be fresh, local material--usually wild. The field trips will be all about local wildflowers and plants. This is where the knowledge can really add up.


We will definitely talk about ecology and conservation in this class!

    Books--A number of the books listed under "Wildlife" (above) might be of interest. If it is books about the floras of different regions you are interested in, just let us know what part of the country (or world!) you're interested in and we'll point you in the right direction.
    In the Field--Learn to look at where you are: what type of ecosystem, what type of land use, etc. In the local environment, you can explore the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie regimes. You may also find bogs, outcrops, and agricultural areas.
    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. If you decided to collect out of state, let us know as soon as possible so we can start tracking down the best flora for you to use for identification.
    In Lecture and Lab--Keep your ears perked up, because we will be talking about ecology and floras. When we take the field trip, we'll have a chance to see succession first hand and to explore several distinct ecosystems.


    Books--One of the best for Texas is Tull's A Practical Guide to Edible and Useful Plants. We also have Kindscher's Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie and the Medves' Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania. 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.
    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.
    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...


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:


We think you will meet some plants this semester that you will find interesting, unusual, or just plain weird.  Keep your eyes and ears open in lab and lecture, and on the field trips.

    Books--Have a look at Fruit--it is full of things you have probably never eaten. Tropica is full of photos of exotic plants from all over the world.
    Plant Collection--You may decide that you want to collect and identify the most unusual plants you can find. Remember, though, that some of these (such as orchids and carnivorous plants) might be quite rare.


In lecture and lab, you will be introduced to plant families that have particularly aromatic members.  There is usually a chemical or structural reason for this.

    Plant Collection--You could put togther a collection of aromatic plants!


    Books--The biggie: AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. Also look at Tull's Practical Guide to Edible and Useful Plants--it has a section on poisonous plants. Most manuals and floras will list information about poisonous properties for plants. Books on edible plants will let you know what is safe.

    In the Field--Learn to recognize our local poisonous plants. Practice sight-identifying families that have many poisonous members. Avoid eating wild plants unless you KNOW what they are...

    Plant Collection--It would be interesting to make a collection of just poisonous plants. Or you might work at determining any poisonous properties of whatever plants you do collect.

    In Lecture and Lab--We'll discuss poisonous plants and families which have many poisonous members. On the field trip, we will talk about what to eat and what not to eat.

    Web sites related to Poisonous Plants


We will talk about this at the beginning of the semester when we discuss growth forms and vegetative and reproductive morphology.

On the field trip, we will see plants in their spring growth stage.  Go back in the fall and you would see things at a different stage.

    Plant Collection--You could make a very good collection by collecting plants in flower and then going back later and getting the fruit.  You would put both dates on the label.  See our record of the Local Flora Through Time.
    Journaling--You can learn a lot from keeping a plant journal.  When do the elms flower?  Do the bluebonnets bloom at the same time each year?  When do they send up their rosettes?  In what stage do winter annuals overwinter?  This study of the timing of plant growth is called phenology.


    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 about grad student John Janovec-- ask him about his experiences in Central America!

    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


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 piques your curiosity, let us know. We'll be glad to steer you in a direction to find out what you need to know. You might also look into taking Botany 328--Plants and People, a course devoted to food, medicine, drug, dye, fiber, and fuel plants.


    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 also 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.

    In the Field/Plant Collection--You are welcome to collect aquatic and marine angiosperms. Be aware of two things, however. 1--There are cultivated plants that occasionally escape along the coast--these may not be keyable. 2--In the 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 Plant and Water-Gardening Web Sites


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. There are also lots of possibilities for interactive web-pages such as the Click-A-Fruit tutorial.


While we may not talk much about genetics this semester, we will still introduce you to the lineage of some cultivated plants such as wheat.   In the field, you may well notice that even within a population of plants that you know are the same species, there is a good amount of genetic variability.  Some local plants, such as Quercus, Baccharis and Silphium, form all sorts of hybrids between species, while other plants (such as Crataegus) forego sex altogether and tend to make vegetative clones.  Generally speaking, plants are a lot more tolerant of disruption of their genetic material than animals are, so you'll see some interesting things.

If time permits, Dr. Manhart will probably bring up the topic of genetically engineered or enhanced plants.  There are some interesting arguments on all sides of the issue.


This overlaps to a great degree with the taxonomy and classification topic (above.)  This is an exciting time for scientists who study phylogeny and paleobotany.  At the current time, there is a great deal of new information regarding the origin of green plants, and land plants in particular.  Recently, a very new classification system was published, one that has the potential to make taxonomists rethink most of the relationships within the flowering plants.


Poison ivy is no fun.  We will teach you in lab the second week how to recognize it.  For more information on how the plant causes a rash and what you can do about it, have a look at the Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center.  For images if poison ivy and poison oak, see our image gallery.


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." You will meet a lot of trees in the class, learn about their families, their uses, and their ecology.


Many different plants have been smoked throughout history, both for recreational and medicinal uses. When we discuss the Cannabaceae and Solanaceae in class, we'll talk about what makes these plants so popular.


Bonsai is the art of growing trees in miniature.  It's unlikely this topic will come up in the normal course of Botany 301, but Monique will be glad to help you find information on the subject.


While this is a taxonomy course, you will hear about plant biochemistry as we study the families.  You'll learn about chemicals that make opium poppies narcotic, tobacco addictive, mints good-smelling, and members of the sunflower family unappetizing to insects.

    Books--You may want to look at the AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.  There is lots of good info in there about specific chemicals in toxic plants.

Well, we will talk about the Rutaceae.  For specific info on growing an orange tree, try A&M's own Page on Citrus and Subtropical FruitThe link to Urban Citrus and then to Home Production of Citrus should be useful.

Return to BOTN 301 Homepage

Last updated by Monique Dubrule Reed on January 25, 2000