Botany I - Introductory

Course CodeBSC104
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn the Science of Plants, plant structure and plant growth.

The course contains the basis of plant science, and is an introduction to plant physiology and taxonomy, covering general botany including morphology and anatomy. Lessons cover: taxonomic classification of plants; cells and tissues; specific vegetative parts of a plant; flowers and fruit; seed and the developing embryo; photosynthesis and growing plants; respiration; the role of water; movement of water and assimilates through a plant; the effects of growth movements.

Comment from one of our Botany students: "Very good. I like your challenging assignments". Marthe.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Taxonomic Classification of Plants
  2. Cells and Tissues
  3. Specific Vegetative Parts of a Plant
  4. Flowers and Fruit
  5. Seed and the Developing Embryo
  6. Photosynthesis and Growing Plants
  7. Respiration
  8. The Role of Water
  9. Movement of Water and Assimilates through a Plant
  10. The Effects of Tropisms and Other Growth Movements


  • Understand the relationship between the scientific principles of this unit and horticultural practices
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the Plant Kingdom and understanding of the taxonomic hierarchy
  • Identify and describe the different types of plant cells and tissues, their structure and function
  • Determine the role and function of specific vegetative parts of the plant
  • Determine the role and function of the reproductive parts of the plant
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role and function of the seed in the life cycle of the plant
  • Explain the mechanism and the role of photosynthesis in the metabolism of plants and relate to plant growth in controlled environments
  • Explain the mechanism and the role of respiration in the metabolism of plants
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of water in the plant
  • Review the movement of water, solutes and assimilates through the plant
  • Explain the effects of tropisms and other plant movements on growth and development
  • Undertake risk assessments relevant to the learning outcomes in this unit

What You Will Do

  • Prepare a collection of forty pressed, dried, labeled plants.
  • Learn how to key out plants using a Botanical Key.
  • Identify the phyla, family, genus and species of ten unknown plants.
  • Identify modified plant parts on live plants.
  • Describe in botanical terms leaf shapes from a range of different plants.
  • Dissect and draw labeled diagrams of several flowers.
  • Collect fruits and categorise them by type (pome, drupe, etc).
  • Germinate seeds and describe changes that occur to the seeds over time.
  • Observe changes in potted plants under varying levels of sunlight and relate this to photosynthesis.
  • Observe transpiration in live plants and relate this to theoretical knowledge.
  • Observe and record osmosis in an experimental situation.
  • Observe and record phototropism in plants.

Why Should I Study Botany?

An understanding of plants and their physiology is essential for a career in the Environmental Sciences. A solid grounding in the principles of plant growth and function can help you with plant selection, care and propagation in Horticulture, or help you to develop stronger, more abundant crops as part of a career in Agriculture. If your goal is environmental management, the health and protection of plant ecosystems will be a major area of concern and your knowledge of botany will be essential. Or if you're an avid home gardener, understanding botany will help to explain the 'why' behind the gardening choices you make.

Leaves, for example, are essential to life on this planet. They are climate controllers, food sources and chemical factories, converting light into the food energy we need to live and renewing the air we breath.


The primary function of leaves is photosynthesis, which is a process in which light energy is caught from the sun and stored via a chemical reaction in the form of carbohydrates such as sugars. Leaves are also the principle plant part involved in the process known as transpiration whereby water evaporating, mainly through the leaf pores (or stomata), sometimes through the leaf cuticle (or surface) as well, passes out of the leaf into a drier external environment. This evaporating water helps regulate the temperature of the plant. This process may also operate in the reverse direction whereby water vapour from a humid external environment will pass into the drier leaf. The process of water evaporating from the leaves is very important in that it creates a water gradient or potential between the upper and lower parts of the plant. As the water evaporates from the plant cells in the leaves then more water is drawn from neighbouring cells to replace the lost water. Water is then drawn into those neighbouring cells from their neighbours and from conducting vessels in the stems. This process continues, eventually drawing water into the roots from the ground until the water gradient has been sufficiently reduced. As the water moves throughout the plant it carries nutrients, hormones, enzymes etc. In effect this passage of water through the plant has a similar effect to a water pump, in this case causing water to be drawn from the ground, through the plant and eventually out into the atmosphere.

A leaf consists basically of a petiole (stalk of the leaf) and a lamina (blade of the leaf). The leaf may be simple or compound (compound leaves consist of a number of smaller leaflets).

There are many leaf modifications that may occur including :

stipules ‑ at the base of the petiole appearing like winged leaves eg: peas

leaf sheath ‑ leaf base surrounded by a sheath which encases the stem. eg. grasses and sedges.

ochrea ‑ a membranous sheath arising from the leaf base and surrounding the axillary bud and stem for a short distance above the node. eg. Polygonaceae family.

bulbs ‑ storage tissue eg: daffodil, onion

ligule ‑ a small membranous or ciliate appendage at the top of the leaf sheath in most grasses.

tendrils ‑ the leaf is modified into a tendril. Identifiable due to the bud at the base of the tendril with frequently large stipules. eg. peas.

leaf spines ‑ small spines either on the margins or the whole leaf. Have buds at the union with the stem which indicates a modified leaf. eg thistle and Opuntia spp.

phyllode ‑ characteristic of Acacias where the lamina is very small and the petiole is enlarged.

pulvinus ‑ swelling at the base of the leaf and leaflets, provides the ability to allow movement by turgidity eg: Mimosa pudica

auricle ‑ small ear like appendage on grasses

cataphylls ‑ reduced leaves at base of plant eg. bud and rhizome scales.

hypsophylls ‑ reduced leaves on apex of plant eg. bracts, floral leaves.


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