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Flowers, Plants & Trees - Learning about Botany

Without plants there could be no life on earth. Because plants are sources of food and other natural resources for construction, clothing, medicines and much more, the study of plants has always been a particularly important concern for human beings. The scientific study of plants is known as botany, and it has been conducted both formally and informally for several centuries.

Although plants had been studied long before his time, the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus (371–287 BC) is widely regarded as the father of botanical science. In his works Enquiry into Plants and Causes of Plants, he developed a classification system for plant life and also worked to understand the different properties of the plants he knew about. Following Theophrastus, the Romans made much use of applied botany in the growing of crops. Islamic thinkers of the ninth through thirteenth centuries AD would study plants and their medicinal uses, and medieval Christians in Europe would develop extensive knowledge of spices and herbs during the age of exploration.

In the eighteenth century, Carl Linnaeus developed a standardized system for classifying plants according to their method of reproduction, and this basic format, with some modifications, is still followed today. More recent figures who have made important contributions to botany include George Washington Carver, an African-American scientist famous for his work with peanuts.

Botany includes several major sub-disciplines including mycology, the study of fungi; pteridology, the study of ferns; paleobotany, the study of plant fossils; and much more. The following resources represent a basic guide to botany. They have been selected to provide every reader with a comprehensive introduction to and overview of botanical science.

General Botany

  • American Journal of Botany — The American Journal of Botany is a premier scholarly publication of the field of botany. This is its official homepage that includes archived articles and much more.
  • Botany Resources — The U.S. Federal Government has put together many free educational resources related to botany on this page.
  • NBII: Botany — Here is an excellent overview page on botany from the National Biological Information Infrastructure.
  • Science News: Botany — Since 1922, Science News has provided the public with valuable news about botany. Here is a collection of botany articles from that publication.
  • Smithsonian Department of Botany — This homepage from the famous Smithsonian Institute on botany has a ton of good information on the discipline.
  • USDA Plant Database — The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosts this database on all the plants native to North America.

Subdisciplines of Botany

  • Bryology — Bryology is the study of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, which are all non-vascular forms of plant life.
  • Fern World — Learn all about pteridology, or the study of ferns, on this page from the British Pteridological Society.
  • Mycology Virtual Library — Extensive links related to mycology, the study of fungi, are accessible on this page.
  • Paleobotany — The brief introduction to paleobotany on this page discusses the role of this discipline in the study of ancient plants and plant fossils.
  • Phycological Society of America — The Phycological Society of America has a ton of good resources and links related to phycology, the study of algae.

Notable Botanists

  • George Washington Carver — George Washington Carver is one of the most famous American botanists, and this page has some great information on his life and accomplishments.
  • Asa Gray — Asa Gray was one of the key figures to establish botany as a discipline in the United States, particularly at Harvard University.
  • J.D. Hooker — Hooker was a famous nineteenth-century botanist who accompanied Charles Darwin on his research trips around the world.
  • Sir Joseph Banks — Read all about the famous naturalist/botanist who explored the Pacific region on this page.
  • Theophrastus — Theophrastus was a Greek philosopher who is widely acclaimed as the father of botany.

Forestry

  • CIFOR Publications — Access publications from the Center for International Forestry Research via this link.
  • Forestry Images — Images and other information on forests is available here for free, but a paid membership gives access to other benefits.
  • RFS Learning — There are great educational resources on trees and forestry on this page from the Royal Forestry Society in Great Britain.
  • UN FAO: Forestry — The importance of forests and the United Nations’ role in developing sustainable forestry worldwide is detailed on this page.
  • U.S. Forest Service — The U.S. Forest Service cares for U.S. forests, conducts forestry-related research, and much more.

Ethnobotany

  • Economic Botany — This searchable index for the journal Economic Botany allows readers to access past articles related to the discipline of ethnobotany.
  • Ethnobotany — On this page, the discipline of ethnobotany is described, and there is information on the specific practices of ethnobotany in Central and South America.
  • Ethnobotanical LeafletsEthnobotanical Leaflets is a journal that covers the discipline of ethnobotany.
  • Native American Ethnobotany — The University of Michigan hosts this searchable database that explains how Native Americans have used different plants throughout their history.
  • Warriors of the Amazon — PBS’ NOVA program looks at how natives to the Amazon basin have used plants medicinally.

Horticulture

  • Aggie Horticulture — Aggie Horticulture helps individuals apply horticultural science in many different ways at home and commercially.
  • Global Horticulture Initiative — The Global Horticulture Initiative applies principles of horticulture to assist the developing world.
  • Home Hydroponics — This fact sheet provides information on the sub-discipline of hydroponics and how it can be applied at home.
  • HortScience — Here the online archive for one of the major research journals published by the American Society for Horticulture Science.
  • Journal of Applied Horticulture — Download free articles from the Journal of Applied Horticulture for free on this site.

Plant Anatomy

  • Atlas of Plant Anatomy — View actual images of the different parts of a plant’s anatomy on this helpful page.
  • Botanical Society of America — The Botanical Society of America has dozens of images of plant anatomy and other information on the other side of this link.
  • Plant Anatomy Glossary — Users can find a handy glossary of terms related to plant anatomy on this site.
  • Plants and Their Structure — This page provides a basic overview of the anatomy of most plants.
  • Reproductive Plant Anatomy — On this page, readers can access some good information on the reproductive structures of both monocots and dicots.

Plant Ecology

  • Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants — The Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants at the University of Florida addresses this perennial problem for plant ecology.
  • Changing Global Land Surface — This site from NASA explores how humanity’s changes to the global land surface are affecting plant distribution and diversity.
  • Journal of Plant Ecology — The top 50 most-read articles from the Journal of Plant Ecology are accessible here.
  • Plant Ecology Notes — Learn about plant ecology with these notes from a noted expert in the field.

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