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Plant Ecology

Course CodeBSC305
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


  • Learn about plant Ecology
  • Expand your knowledge or pursue a passion
  • Extend your opportunities to work in Horticulture, Environmental Management or Plant Sciences 

Acquire a deeper understanding of the principles of plant ecology; why plants are the way they are, their relationships to other plants and living things, how they evolved and which factors determine their growth and survival. Apply that understanding to the cultivation or management of plants, and develop a new view on the plant world.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introductory Ecology
  2. Plant Communities
  3. Plants and their Environment
  4. Plants, Soils & Climate
  5. Plant Adaptations to Extreme Environments
  6. Manipulating Plant Environments
  7. Environmental Conservation
  8. Environmental Organisations, Assessment and Funding

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Define the term ecosystem
  • Explain the importance of plants as energy producers within ecosystems
  • Explain basic ecological principles
  • Define the terms open and closed plant communities, semi-natural vegetation, dominant species, climax association.
  • Describe the effects of plant association and competition on the succession of plants
  • Describe how plant communities respond to environmental stresses.
  • Explain how the development, structure and function of an organism depends on the interaction of that organism with its environment
  • Describe the effects of a range of abiotic environmental factors on plant growth and development
  • Explain the importance of monitoring abiotic environmental factors
  • Describe plant modifications to withstand extreme environmental conditions
  • Describe the weather and climate in a particular region.
  • Relate plant distribution, growth and natural selection to soil, geography, weather and climate.
  • State how soil, geography, weather and climate affect the horticulturist’s selection of plants for any specific growing location.
  • Evaluate the use of meteorological records in relation to plant growth and development
  • Define the terms xerophyte, hydrophyte and halophyte
  • Describe the structure and function of xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes
  • Describe how xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes can be utilised in garden or landscape situations
  • Describe the significance of xeromorphy in temperate zone plants and its importance in the garden or landscape situation.
  • Evaluate the methods by which environmental conditions can be manipulated to improve the growth and development of plants
  • State the factors affecting the choice of plants for garden or landscape sites with extreme conditions
  • Assess the value of using protective structures to grow plant
  • Describe the sources and nature of pollutants and possible effects on plants
  • Describe how the environment may be affected by a range of horticultural practices
  • Explain how planning, environmental assessment and impact analysis may contribute to the conservation process
  • State the major sources of grant aide available to support environmental conservation on horticultural sites
  • Review the role of national and international organisations in the conservation of plants and gardens.

What is Ecology?

Ecology is the study of the relationship between plants and animals and their physical and biological environment. The physical environment includes:

1. Light
2. Heat
3. Solar Radiation
4. Moisture
5. Wind
6. Oxygen
7. Carbon dioxide
8. Nutrients in soil, water and the atmosphere.

The biological environment includes:

i) Organisms within the same species
ii) Other plants
iii) Other animals

Many approaches can be made to study organisms in their environment; therefore ecology draws upon such fields as:

  • Meteorology
  • Hydrology
  • Oceanography
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Taxonomy
  • Physiology
  • Botany
  • Mathematics

In recent years, public awareness of environmental problems has increased greatly. This has made ecology a common and often misused word.  It is often confused with environmental programs and environmental science. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ecology as:

"The branch of biology dealing with the relation of organisms to
one another and to their physical surroundings."

Although the field of ecology is a distinct scientific discipline, it does contribute to the study and understanding of environmental problems.

Why Study Plant Ecology?

When you understand how a plant species 'fits' within its environment, you're able to make informed choices about its management. An understanding of plant ecology will guide you choices in plant selection, care, propagation and protection from environmental hazards. So, whether plants are a professional or personal interest, studying Plant Ecology will give you a deeper, richer understanding and guide your approach to plant care and development, whatever your area of environmental interest.

Meet some of our academics

Marie BeermanMarie has over 7 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants". Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Ldscp.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., P.G.Dip.Ed.

Check out our eBooks

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Plant LanguageThe Plant Language ebook is a great little companion for any horticulture student, professional or enthusiast to get to know more about plants by understanding the names.