Spring 2006

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.............25
  Gardening/Houseplants/specific cult. plants....12
  Flowers in General/ Giving/Receiving Flowers...16
  Wildlife Habitats/Foods........................12
  Photography/Looking at Plants...................6
Medicinal Plants/Herbs/Health Care/Ethnobotany..3
  Cacti (including killing them)..................2
  Allergies--food and pollen......................2
Aquatic Plants/Wetland Plants...................2
  Plant Reproduction/Development..................2
  Outdoorsy/Outdoor Sports........................1
  Native Plants/ Wildflowers......................1
  Trees & Shade...................................1
  Rainforest and Tropical Plants..................1
  Rangeland Ecology/Grasses/Livestock.............1
  Butterfly and Hummingbird Nectar Plants.........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!

Other Links, including such odd things as peppers and trail mix... (no endorsements implied)

Paul's Elderberry Page
Plants for a Future Database  (try the U.S. mirror if the Australian one is slow)
Tropical Fruits--lots of interesting images
Pinetree Gardens Seeds--many interesting vegetables to grow.
Botany 328, Plants and People
Coosemans World-wide Specialty Produce
Chili Peppers--everything chile
A Cook's Thesaurus--great information on all sorts of food plants.
Spice and Herb Encyclopedia
Pecans--all sorts of recipes from Aggie Horticulture
Messina Hof--the Brazos Valley's own award-wining winery and vineyard


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...


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
       Drying Roses   
       How to Preserve Leaves and Flowers with Glycerine

Websites Related To Wildlife:

NC State's Habitat Improvement Site (lots of good info, largely to do with watersheds)
Herps of Texas
Birds of Texas--with lots of links
Texas Parks and Wildlife--many links, including abstracts from symposia
Invasive Species
Fun page of Animal Sounds on the Web
See what's going on with Conservation in Britain  (the U.K. faces some of the same issues we do)

PHOTOGRAPHY/LOOKING AT PLANTS Our very own Image Gallery has some of the best plant images around.  Many of them were taken by Dr. Manhart or by Robert Corbett, one of the TA's for this course.  Both are avid photographers and are glad to share tips and tricks.  Dr. Manhart occasionally teaches a seminar on plant photography; you can ask him when he will teach it next.


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.


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.


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?


We will definitely talk about ecology in this class


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

Web sites related to Plant Medicines (No endorsements or recommendations implied!)

University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden--Great site!
Southwestern School of Botanical Medicine---Great site with photos of medicinal plants and links to documents, classes, and more.
An interesting Thesis on folk medicine among native peoples in a remote Oaxacan village.
An on-line Herbal
Aromatherapy Information
Mexican Folk Remedies
Plants for a Future-- Database
Poisonous Plants Database--good to know about
The Botanical Dermatology Database
Chinese Herbal Medicine Register--from the UK.

We will be talking about cacti this semester, with regard to their classification and morphology.  We probably won't tell you how to kill them, although overwatering usually does it for cacti kept as houseplants, and a good fire has been known to work on prickly pear.

Books--We have several good cacti references, including the new Flora of North America treatment.  The A&M library also has a few good volumes we could recommend.

In the Field/Plant Collection--We honestly hope that your plant collection doesn't include cacti.  Prickly pears (genus Opuntia) is forbidden because of the noxious glochids; other species take so long to dry that specimens usually mold.  However, if you are serious about learning how to prepare specimens, you can ask Monique and she will talk you through the process. (Click  for a photo of the midpoint of such an endeavor.)

In Lecture/Lab--The material on the Cactaceae won't occupy a large part of the semester, but we *will* talk about it.

Websites Related to Cacti

Cactus and Succulent Society of America
North Texas Cactus and Succulent Society
for information on killing cacti, Google search for terms such as "prickly pear eradication"  Don't be surprised at the the number of Australian and African sites returned--prickly pear is a problem in  many parts of the world.


We won't promise you that you won't encounter pollen in this course.  Spring pollen allergies in this part of Texas are among the worst in the U.S.  We won't *feed* you anything you might be allergic to, though!

Websites Related to Plant Allergies and Pollen

Pollen count for Bryan-College Station
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network--because eating something wrong is no fun at all

This really only has to do with plants inasmuch as most camouflage *looks* like plants.  We suspect the few who expressed an interest in camouflage really just want to be out huntin'.  We can understand, but when you are out huntin,' do look at the plants around you.  They may be every bit as interesting as the critters you're after, and they don't run off when you try to get a better view.


   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

Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants--from Florida (really good; links to a gopher search engine)
Pete's Pond Page
Aquatic Gardeners Association
The Carnivorous Plant FAQ, because many carnivores are bog plants
An A&M course in Wetland Plants, offered by the Range Department
Ducks Unlimited of Texas
Live from the Estuary

We will talk about this at the beginning of the semester, in the lectures on reproductive morphology and breeding systems and the Reproductive Characters lab.   How plants achieve pollination, fertilization, and fruit production is amazing.  How they reproduce asexually is even more amazing. Did you know there are species that reproduce almost entirely asexually?  You can't do that with animals!

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," below, 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.



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.
Our favorite tree links

The Tree Circus--You have to see this to believe it! Site is maintained by an arborist.  Trees now grow in Bonfante

Tree Register of the British Isles--some truly memorable trees
National Big Tree Register
American Trees--including links to Global Releaf, Forest Policy, Urban Forestry, Climate Change Calculator, etc.
Texas Forest Service
Native Texas Trees
American Society of Consulting Arborists
Tree Climbers International
Plant  Amnesty--dedicated to educating people about how *not* to prune
James Balog's new, amazing book of tree photography

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.

This isn't a topic we will be discussing in depth this semester, but we will be studying families that tend to have a lot of nectar plants for insects and birds. 

Books-  Monique has a book in her collection that has information about gardening for birds and butterflies--you can ask her to bring it in.

Plant Collection--You might want to make a collection of nectar plants.  Butterflies like flowers that give them a broad, flat landing platform (zinnia, lantana, and so on), and hummingbirds are attracted to plants with tubular, red flowers, like our native honeysuckle.

In Lecture and Lab--Pay special attention to families with lots of nectar plants, such as the Lamiaceae, Bignoniaceae, and Asteraceae

We're not sure what the respondent meant by "Biotech," but biotechnology certainly is being applied to botany.  Probably the most controversial topic these days is genetic modification of crop plants.  Colorado state has a nice page on Transgenic Crops.  Dr. Manhart, your TA, or Monique can also help you find information on this subject.

Return to BOTN 301 Homepage

Last updated by Monique Dubrule Reed on January 25, 2006