Botany 101:  The Basics of Botany

Botany is defined as the study of plants.  Over the centuries, it has evolved and today includes several areas of specialization:

  • Physiology: The study of plant growth and development
  • Morphology and Anatomy: The study of plant structures
  • Taxonomy and Systematics: The study of the naming and classification of plants
  • Genetics and Breeding: The study of genes and inheritance
  • Ecology: The study of relationships between plants and their environments
  • Horticulture: The art or practice of garden cultivation and management

This body of work deals primarily with vascular plants.  There are two basic groups of vascular plants:

  • Angiosperms: About 300,000 species of flowering plants whose seeds are typically enclosed in a dry or fleshy fruit which develops from the flower
  • Gymnosperms: About 1000 species of non-flowering plants that produce exposed seeds that are not completely enclosed in fruits

Of these two groups of vascular plants, gymnosperms are the more primitive.  In addition to including conifers like pines, junipers, cedars, and cypress trees, gymnosperms also include cycads and ginkgo trees.

Angiosperms are commonly grouped based on the number of seed leaves or cotyledons they produce.  Most angiosperms are called dicots because they produce cotyledons in pairs.  These include tomatoes, apples, oaks, and rhododendrons, to name a few.  Other angiosperms produce a single cotyledon and are therefore called monocots.  These include species of orchids, lilies, bamboos, and cereal grains like oats, wheat, and rice to name a few.