BIO 2240


"The study of botany is a source of lifelong happiness.  Whatever may be one's station or pursuit in life ... botany is one of the best of hobbies. The botanist lives in the fresh air and sunshine: and when he leaves the world behind, and seeks amid the solitudes of Nature, to penetrate her wondrous mysteries, he feels the quickenings of a higher life.  A taste for botany wonderfully enhances the pleasures of travel, and also gives happiness and content to him who stays at home.  It is equally efficacious in preventing the
ennui  of wealth and the anxieties of poverty. ... The study of botany is particularly rich in those elements which conduce to a vigorous mind and body and a robust character."  --- J.F.A. Adams, Science, February 4, 1887, from "Is botany a suitable study for young men?"

LINKS TO:   Assignments

Kerry Woods
,  Dickinson 143, 440-4465,,
    office hours Tues, Wed and Fri 10-12

Class meeting times: Monday 2:00-4:00, Thursday 2:00-6:00
Room:  Dickinson 148 (and 146 for lab)

This class is an exploration of plant biology with two primary foci.  The class will serve as an introduction to the diversity of plants -- particularly of the local flora -- and the concepts and tools necessary to become a competent field taxonomist.  At the same time, we will look at how plants make their living in the natural world and how the diversity of plant adaptations can be understood in the context of environmental adaptation and species interactions.  While there will be some necessary discussion of the underlying plumbing (physiology, development, genetics, evolution), the focus will be primarily on the natural history of the whole organism, and on development and refinement of observational skills -- how to see plants.  There will be a lot of lab and field work -- the practicum of 'seeing' --  both as a class and individually, on your own.


There will be a variety of field and lab exercises and assignments, maybe some short quizzes or question sets, and two larger individual projects/papers.  For those requesting grades, these two projects will account for about 40% of your grade; smaller exercises and assignments about 40%; and other evidence of participation and engagement the remainder.
    Most importantly, since observation, participation, hands-on exploration in the field and lab are central to the purposes of the class; general engagement and initiative is important and will count for a lot.  To do well in the class you MUST engage in independent work outside of class time as well as be present and engaged in the class and lab.  If you miss classes too frequently (more than 2-3 times) your evaluation will be affected, and absences may lead to failure.  Attending scheduled LABS is particularly essential, and timeliness is important, especially for field labs, where late arrival may mean missing the trip.
    You'll be expected to spend a substantial amount of time in individual, independent observation and exploration.  This is essential to gaining comfort and expertise as a naturalist (just as any skill with tools or instruments requires practice), and it will be obvious whether you've been doing it!


Class time will be spent in various mixes of classroom, lab, and field.  EVERY THURSDAY, unless otherwise informed,  you should come to class prepared to go outside, possibly into rough terrain, with appropriate clothes and footwear as well as field-guides, lens, and field notebook.   Several Thursdays will involve off-campus field-trips.  
When we have off-campus FIELD TRIPS, we'll use the FULL THURSDAY MEETING TIME for field trip -- from 2:00 (or maybe earlier) to 6:00 -- so you MUST be on time!  More detailed schedule later, but expect these from mid-April onwards


There is no required general textbook for this class, but I recommend that you acquire a general botany/plant bio text for reference/background purposes.  The best, in most people's opinion, is "Raven Biology of Plants" by Evert and Eichhorn (earlier editions are just called "Biology of Plants" and Raven is first author).  It's currently in 8th edition, I think.  You should be able to get a used copy at a reasonable price, OR one of the last couple of editions would be fine.  There are also good web resources for general reference, including some free online textbooks (see below).

What IS required is that you have books for identification of plants in the field.  Various combinations are possible, but a good starting combination might include the first two on this list:
    - Newcomb's Wildflower Guide
    - Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Trees.  Both of these are user-friendly, illustrated, and include taxonomic KEYS (essential) -- but they are not totally complete
    - A more technical and complete guide to WOODY plants (including vines and small shrubs) is  Muenscher's Keys to Woody Plants.  It's very complete and up to date, but technically demanding. 
    - A bulkier, but very thorough regional flora is Flora Novae Angliae published by the New England Wild Flower Society.  I'll have a couple of copies available in the lab.
    - NEWFS also supports a web-based plant identification app called 'gobotany'; you SHOULD use this -- but it's only going to be available when you have internet access.

ALSO REQUIRED: You must also each have:
    - A good hand-lens -- at least 10X.  The Bausch & Lomb 'Coddington' is a standard, but there are a cheaper ones.  Real plant geeks will also carry a 14X or 20X lengs (e.g., Bausch & Lomb 'Hastings Triplet') as well.  All available on Amazon (and maybe in bookstore)
    - and a field notebook (something that's tough enough to take rough treatment and wet weather, and convenient for carrying and writing or sketching on in the field).  You'll want to use PENCIL in the field.  Some people like to have two notebooks -- one for rough notes and sketches in the field, and one into which all of that is transcribed in neater more organized fashion.  You can use whatever you like.  Field-people often use the 'Rite in the Rain' waterproof field notebook series; they come in many sizes and shapes.


Finally, here are some potentially useful web resources:
    -  Go Botany is New England Wild-flower Society's on-line, interactive plant ID/key tool.  It's excellent
    - Here's an online intro botany text by Alexey Shipunov that has some good material; a lot of it focuses on physiological/cellular stuff, but it is current ,has a good glossary and good illustrations of a lot of stuff we will cover
    - Here's another, which is basically a compilation of Wikipedia articles
    - Wikipedia is actually a pretty good resource for taxonomy and evolution of plants; look up particular species, families, etc.  It's not so good for more ecological stuff.
    - Another online botany text that's in the process of translation from German.  Very thorough, but not all available in English yet.  Very good for illustrations, definitions, material supporting some of the background material.
    - Botanical Society of America
    - A dictionary of botanical terms from the California Flora project
    - and another the Missouri Botanical Garden (a top place; explore their website...)
    - a large archive of illustrations, photos, micrographs of many plant types and strucutres from Univ. of Wisconsin
    - a website about botanical art and illustration, more of same
    - Three of the most important botanical gardens: NY, Missouri, Kew

These are just a beginning; explore.


This is approximate, and will very likely change (chapters from recent edition of Raven's Biology of Plants if you wish...)

Week 1
Introduction: How to see a plant
    - Fact, observation, and science.
    - On naming things (first round).
Ch. 1,5,6, 7
Week 2
PART 1: Plant function, taxonomy, evolution
I. How to be a plant: How plant structure solves basic problems
    - Plumbing I: light: photosynthesis and gas exchange 
    - Plumbing II: water: roots, stems
Ch. 4,24,25,26
 Photosynthesis animations
Week 3
    - Plumbing III: mineral nutrition: roots and fungi
    - Plumbing IV: growth and intro to reproduction
Ch. 29, 30, 3, 11
Water transport
mitosis and meiosis animation
alternation of generations
Week 4
II. Adaptation, trade-offs, evolution:
    - natural selection
    - speciation
Ch. 8,15,16,17
the Niklas tree model
Week 5
    - On naming things (second round; phylogenetics)

Ch. 18
Tree of Life: 'Kingdoms'
Berkeley Kingdoms
an ALGAE site
Week 6
III. Plant’s-eye history of the world and diversity survey
    - origin of autotrophy and the algal Kingdoms  
    - invading land: spores and cryptogams
   - inventing seeds and flowers (gymnosperms, angiosperms)
Ch. 19,20
Paleos on land plants
Tree of Life Plant Root
Week 7
PART 2: Plant ecology
IV. Population growth, regulation, competition

Week 8
V. Adaptation and distribution  on-line Ch. 31,32
Week 9
VI. Diversity and plant communities
Ch. 12
Week 10
   -  disturbance and succession Ch. 21
Week 11
   - pollination, mate choice in plants
   - seed biology: dispersal, germination

Week 12
VII. Plants and people:
    - domestication, agriculture

Week 13
    - plant breeding
Week 14
    - plant explorers, plant conservation, plant invasions


The lab will be a mix of “survey” work -- getting acquainted with plant anatomy and taxonomic groups -- and exercises focused on plant function and ecology.  Expect to spend the full lab period, particularly on field days. 
    ALWAYS bring a notebook to lab, INCLUDING FIELD TRIPS, and assume that ANY LAB MAY BE OUT-DOORS unless I say specifically otherwise in class before-hand. SO, EVERY THURSDAY come dressed and prepared for the weather even if it's wet or cold. For only moderately nasty weather, dress warmly or bring rain gear as appropriate.   Good FOOTWEAR is important; expect wet ground and off-trail walking.
    Your lab notebook should be suitable for use outside (or get a separate field notebook) – easy to carry, robust, attractive because other people may see it.  I recommend waterproof notebooks (e.g., ‘Rite-in-the-rain’; the bookstore will have some), but you can always stick it in a clear plastic bag.  BRING A PENCIL TO LAB; ink runs when it gets wet. 
    ALSO ALWAYS BRING  hand lens, and appropriate identification guides: the tree/woody plant book(s) for first few weeks; wildflower book starting April.
    You may want to get some sort of field bag to carry all this stuff, and for bringing back souvenirs or plant material for identification.

Lab schedule will be flexible, dependent on weather and projects, but first weeks of term, THURSDAYS will be a mix of classroom, lab, and field time on campus.  After Long Weekend, we'll spend the FULL THURSDAY 2:00 - 6:00 IN THE FIELD, often off campus.
    AND there MAY BE one weekend field-trip in early-mid May.  This trip is will not be required -- but it will be fun and a great opportunity to expand your botanical horizons.
    Here is the evolving schedule for now:

Weeks 1-2: woody plant structure and identification: use of keys, winter identification.  In adition to the keys in your field guides, check out:
    The Trees of Wisconsin website -- keys and PHOTOS of buds and twigs, as well as leaves and other materials
    A simple twig and bud key that might be a good back-up for common species with links to good bud and leaf-scar photos

Weeks 3-5: Continuing with above and time in lab, with microscopic and prepared materials, getting acquainted with general plant structures and anatomy.

Weeks 6-7: Mix of lab and on-campus field-work, touring major plant groups and their main features.

Rest of term: Mostly field-trips on and off-campus.