STUDENT INTEREST POLL - SPRING, 1995

THE RESULTS ARE IN !!

We asked you to tell us what interests you have in botany. Some people didn't respond, or answered "general" or "none," but most folks listed something. Here is what you said you wanted to learn more about:

Topic                                      Times Mentioned

Medicinal plants                                    38
Ecology/habitats/wildlife foods/conservation/soils  34
Poisonous Plants                                    17
Gardening/houseplants/landscape/ornamentals         16
Edible plants/herbs                                 14
Herbs/fragrance/aromatherapy                        10
Native plants                                        6
General/diversity                                    6
Identification                                       5
Aquatics                                             3
Range plants/Stock forage                            3
Carnivores                                           3
Pollution/waste management                           3
Dyes/craft uses                                      2
Agronomy                                             1
Breeding/new trends                                  1
Symbiosis                                            1
Plant defenses                                       1
Environmental law and policy                         1
Barley and hops                                      1
Required course/graduating/passing exams             7

We can recommend books and techniques that can help you learn more about these things within the BOTN 201 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 below are ones we have in the lab or herbarium. We can also recommend others the library might have. Just ask Monique.

MEDICINAL PLANTS

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 plants poisons are also medicines. Mabberly'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. We now have Kindscher's Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie, which focuses on Native American uses of prairie plants. 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 medicinal 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.

ECOLOGY/HABITATS/WILDLIFE FOODS

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 one or two 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 ecology find their way into lecture. On field trips, we'll talk a lot about 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!

POISONOUS 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.

GARDENING/HOUSEPLANTS/LANDSCAPE/ORNAMENT/COLOR/TROPICALS/ROSES

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...

Books--We have Hortus III and Tropica. In the lab, we have Botany for Gardeners. Monique also has a ton of books and magazines on gardening, ornamentals, veggies, roses, landscape design, etc. Just mention what you want, and she'll recommend something... We also have information about growing many natives in the landscape.

In the Field--Practice sight-identification of families. This will help you learn to recognize plants in gardens, nurseries, etc. Watch for native plants that might make good landscape plants.

Plant Collection--Cultivated plants are not allowed, but you might want to make a collection of wild relatives of garden plants or a collection of plants you would want in a landscape.

In Lecture and Lab--Again, learn the families. Each week in lab, you will find a marked nursery catalog featuring cultivated members of the families we study. We will also bring in cultivated plants to show family features. On field trips, we'll talk about which native plants can be adapted for home landscapes.

EDIBLE PLANTS

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 such as farkleberries, persimmons, and so on. Ask lots of questions--and get Monique's Rumex soup recipe...

HERBS/FRAGRANCE/AROMATHERAPY

You should get a chance to smell many wonderful things this semester...

Books--Monique has several books on herbs and scented plants and can recommend others. Just ask. There are many serial publications on herbs and aromatherapy also.

In the Field--Smell things! Many of the cultivated herbs and fragrant plants have wild relatives that you will meet. Look for members of families that tend to be aromatic.

Plant Collection--Collect fragrant plants or plants from families with aromatic uses.

In Lecture and Lab--We will be talking about families which tend to be aromatic--Lauraceae, Lamiaceae, some Asteraceae, etc. You should get a lot of good background information.

NATIVE PLANTS/WILDFLOWERS

Books--We have a good collection of books on Texas plants--some are picture books and some are technical keys. We have several books on native grasses. 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.

GENERAL/DIVERSITY

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.

PLANT IDENTIFICATION

Boy, are you in luck! This is the main thing we deal with. 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.

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.

AQUATICS

Books--We have two good sets of books on aquatic and wetland plants (including coastal)--one set for the Southeast, an 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 at the 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 tend to have aquatic members or which are salt-tolerant or otherwise adapted to aquatic or marine life.

RANGE PLANTS/STOCK FORAGE

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.

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. 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. Collect plants that interest you.

In Lecture and Lab--Pay special attention to important 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.

CARNIVORES

In lecture, Dr. Wilson will be discussing carnivorous plants and how they trap food. Also, check out the Carnivorous Plants database on the links page. In lab, we will get a chance to see some live ones. (As a note to the student who requested info: none are man-eating, but it would make a good movie.)

Plant Collection--If you collect carnivorous plants, please be conservation-minded. Some species are threatened because of over-collecting.

POLLUTION/WASTE MANAGEMENT

We probably won't be discussing this per se, but Dr. Wilson or Monique could probably point you in the direction of literature dealing with strip mine reclamation, plants that help clean water, and plants used for planting on top of landfills.

Plant Collection--You might want to focus on collecting plants from polluted sites or reclaimed sites and comparing this with what you could get from an undisturbed area.

DYES/CRAFT USES

There won't be much about this in lecture, but Monique is interested in this too, so ask her to recommend some good books. One good one is Delena Tull's A Practical Guide to Edible and Useful Plants of Texas. The library has several good books on natural dyes and dyeing. Monique has some books on basketry, too.

Plant Collection--You might want to make a collection of dye plants found locally. While you are collecting, you might also look for plants with usable fibers, seeds, bark, and so on.

AGRONOMY

Dr. Wilson will be mentioning crop plants in lecture, and we'll have a chance to see some in lab.

In the Field/Plant Collection--You might consider collecting the native plants found in an agricultural ecosystem, or focus on how agricultural practices such as mowing or grazing alter the natural flora.

In Lecture and Lab--We will be studying families that are important for crop plants--grains, legumes, potatoes, carrots, etc.

BREEDING/NEW TRENDS

This is more the topic for a course in plant breeding. In lecture, Dr. Wilson will mention a few plants which have unusual methods of pollination and reproduction. If there is a particular group of plants you are interested in (roses, potatoes, oaks, etc...) Monique can help you find books or articles about breeding work with that group. (For example, a recent issue of Smithsonian had a great article about breeding native species of Penstemon for use as landscape plants.)

SYMBIOSIS

Hmm. That's a toughie. We probably won't talk too much about symbiosis, but if you ask her, Monique can point you to material on symbiotic relationships between bacteria and legumes or trees and mycorrhizal fungi and so on.

PLANT DEFENSES

We assume you mean how plants defend themselves. This semester, in lecture and lab, you will meet a whole array of plants with thorns, prickles, spines, stinging hairs, bad smells, bad tastes, and so on. For example, Dr. Wilson may talk about how walnut trees manufacture a herbicide to cut down on competition. Many chemicals produced by plants are feeding deterrents, and we'll be talking about some of these aromatic or poisonous plants.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY

Hmm. Another toughie. There probably won't be too much on this topic in the course, but what you learn here WILL be useful in your field. You will be exposed to sensitive issues such as endangered species, overgrazing, fire control, wetland preservation, and conservation. This is the sort of thing the teaching staff LOVES to talk about, so hang around after class and toss out a topic for discussion....

BARLEY AND HOPS

Yes, we will mention these this semester. We hope you will find there is more about botany to interest you than these two plants, though.

REQUIRED COURSE/GRADUATING/PASSING THE EXAMS

We realize this can be a major concern for some students. However, we hope that SOMEthing we teach you this semester will be interesting. This course can be so much more than just a way to earn 3 credit hours--if you go at it with a little curiosity and an open mind. Let us know what we can do to pique your interest.


  • Text produced by MDR Spring Semester, 1995
  • Last updated by HDW on 21 February 1995

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