Spring 2002

We asked you to tell us what interests you have in botany. This is a very diverse group of answers. Here is what you said you wanted to learn more about:

  Wildlife Habitats/Foods........................19
Edible Plants/Nutrition/Food/Herbs.............17
Fresh or Dried Flowers..........................8
Nature/Ecology/Conservation/Field Trips.........6
Medicinal Plants/Herbs/Health Care..............4
   Native Plants/Wildflowers.......................3
General/Plants and People.......................2
   Ethnobotany/Useful Plants/Clothes...............2
Aquatic Plants/Wetlands/Aquaria.................2
Smoking Plants..................................2
  Rangeland Ecology/Grasses.......................1
Teaching Biology................................1
  Poisonous/Toxic Plants..........................1
  Using Plants in Crafts..........................1
  Impressing Grandma..............................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...




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!!!


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.


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


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

    Books--Check out the AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. Many plant poisons are also medicines. Mabberley's Plant Book has lots of notes about medicinal uses. Many floras and manuals mention medicinal uses for plants. Tull's A Practical Guide to Edible and Useful Plants has good info, and so does her newer book that's specifically for Texas and the Southwest. We have Kindscher's Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie, which focuses on Native American uses of prairie plants. We have also acquired Native American Ethnobotany. There is lots of information out there; you will have to examine it carefully as not all of it is trustworthy.
    In the Field--Look for plants that you know have medicinal value. Learn which ones grow where. But please, DON'T dabble in herbal remedies unless you really know what you're doing...
    Plant Collection--You might want to put together a collection of native medicinal or aromatic plants, or else focus on discovering what uses there might be for whatever plants you collect.
    In Lab and Lecture--Make an effort to learn about and learn to recognize the families that tend to have medicinal properties.


This is our most favorite thing!  The study of what's out there is called floristics.  Dr. Wilson 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.


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.

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


    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 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

Books--We have several books dedicated to the trees of North America.  Nothing beats T. S. Elias' Complete Trees of North America, 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--While we won't be discussing forestry per se, we will be talking about important timber plants and their families, especially when we discuss the Hamamelidae.

In the Field/Plant Collection--Study the timber trees in the region--oak, hickory, elm, ash, and so on.  Notice how the local area is all second and third growth, except for a few spots deep in the bottomlands.  You may want to collect mostly tree species, though we do hope you won't neglect the region's many beautiful herbs.

Web Sites devoted to Forestry
    Texas Forest Service
   Texas Big Tree Registry--Find out where the giants are
    Links to State Forestry Associations on the Web
    USDA Southern Research Station Forestry Links


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.

    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


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 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.

        Turfgrass Links
           Texas Turfgrass Association
           Turfgrass Info from the Texas Extension Service
           Turf at A&M
           Lots and Lots and Lots of Turf Links

    Books--Some keys, such as the Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas and Grasses of Texas have information about agricultural uses for each plant, and quite a few non-native crop plants have become fully naturalized members of our flora.  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--Practice sight-identifying important crop plant families such as grasses and legumes. Observe crop-weed interactions in fields.  Bring unknowns back to the lab to key them.  See how former cropland (the local area was once all under cotton) reverts back to wild vegetation.

    Plant Collection--You might want to make a collection of just relatives of crop plants, or perhaps weed pests of crop plants.

    In Lecture and Lab-Pay special attention to important crop plant families like grasses and legumes.

    Web sites related to Agriculture and Farming
            Future Harvest--Sustainable and eco-Agriculture worldwide
            Genetically-engineered Crop Issues
            Eating Locally

    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 really won't be doing much with gymnosperms this semester (other than mention them as different from angiosperms) since this is a Flowering Plant course.  Still, you will learn a lot about the plants gymnosperms hang out with, and you'll learn how angiosperms have adapted to the same habitats that gymnosperms have.

        Some Gymnosperm Links
               Gymnosperms--Taxonomic Info
               A Lecture on Conifers


This is fun stuff, and you can bet Monique and Diane will be interested in anything you attempt.  We can probably even point you in the direction of useful books like Delena Tull's A Practical Guide to Useful and Edible Wild Plants of Texas. We may not talk much about this in lecture or lab, but the local flora offers all sorts of raw materials for basketry, dyeing, weaving, pressed flower craft, and paper-making.  Experiment!  (Just try not to harvest too much of anything in any one place.)

        Plant-Crafty Links
             How to Preserve Leaves and Flowers with Glycerine
             How to Dry Flowers--But do NOT do this for your plant collection!!!
             Dyes, Including Natural Dyes
                A jumping-off point for Basketry
                A bit about Paper-Making with natural materials
                Something new--Flower Pounding--(the project described is weird, but the technique sounds like fun!)


We're sure your grandmother will be very impressed with all the botanical knowledge you acquire this semester.  You can show off what you've learned in the garden, on a walk, or at the local salad bar.  You may also find that a plant-collecting expedition with a parent, grandparent, child, or friend can be a real "bonding" experience.  Botany loves company!

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Last updated by Monique Dubrule Reed on January 25, 2002