Spring 2005

We asked you to tell us what interests you have in botany, and we got a very diverse group of answers back. Here is what you said you wanted to learn more about. (Don't see what you specifically mentioned?  It's probably there, under one of the more general headings...)

Edible Plants/Nutrition/Food/Herbs.............14
Medicinal Plants/Herbs/Health Care/ Ethnobotany.6
  Wildlife Habitats/Foods.........................5
  Rainforest and Tropical Plants..................5
  Trees & Shade...................................4
  Rangeland Ecology/Grasses/Livestock.............3
  Flowers in General/ Giving/Receiving Flowers....2
  Outdoorsy/Outdoor Sports........................2
  Native Plants/ Wildflowers......................2

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, and Millie and Matt are both horticulturists, so you can ask them lots of questions...



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



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."  Shade, in Texas, is a delightful and precious commodity.

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.


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.  You can find strange and wondrous things at Wayne's Word, too.


We will definitely talk about ecology in this class

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.


A few gentlemen said they use flowers to get out of the doghouse with their girlfriends.  Quite a few of the ladies said they liked to receive flowers.  Gents, are you listening?

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

We all like to go romping in the woods, and we know many of you like hiking, fishing, and hunting.  Please do think of trees and plants as more than just something to climb or hide in to hunt from!  Have a look at the information under "Trees," above for some things you might be interested in. Also, if you spend a lot of time hiking, camping, or otherwise traipsing around in the underbrush, you will want to be able to recognize Poison Ivy, Stinging Nettle, and Bull Nettle.


This is our most favorite thing!  The study of what's out there is called floristics.  The teaching staff all have interests in the local flora.


Wow.  This topic has never come up before, and this semester we have *two* students interested in forensics.  It can be a fascinating study. (Ask Monique about a murder case consultation she did for the Texas Rangers...)  While this isn't a topic we will specifically cover in lecture or lab, becoming familiar with plant structures can be critically useful in forensic botany.  Certain features are found in certain plants, and certain plants grow in certain types of habitats.  You'll learn a lot of family characteristics this semester.  In the meantime. here are a couple of websites dedicated to forensic biology:

                Forensic Biology
                Pollen Forensics and the Fight Against Terrorism


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 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
     Weed Alert--mostly for turf and garden weeds.  You can win a prize!
      Lots and Lots and Lots of Turf Links


Photosynthesis is a topic more suitable for a plant physiology or cell biology course.  We won't be talking much about photosynthesis per se this semester, but if you keep your eyes open, you will see all sorts of adaptations with regard to photosynthesis.  There are plants that open their stomates only at night, plants that are adapted to heavy shade, plants that require high light, variegated plants with two different tissue types, plants with reddish pigments that protect chlorophyll from degradation, plants with photosynthetic stems, and parasitic plants that make use of other plants' photosynthates.  Cool, huh?

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Last updated by Monique Dubrule Reed on February 7, 2005