Watching grass grow might not sound exciting, but it’s quite incredible when you understand what’s going on. Learn about plant movement and just how much these sessile organisms move on the regular.
Welcome to HerbSpeak’s vault of Botany articles, where you’ll learn about plants throughout the world in a plain-language or annotated way, on any subject that happens to catch your interest.
Learn about concepts around botany, or dive right in and get to know the different types of currently known carnivorous plants.
Not detailed enough for you? You’ll also find information about different plant functions, such as photosynthesis or heliotropism, all broken down into easy, bite-sized pieces.
Get ready to start exploring:
Do carnivorous plants photosynthesize like other plants, or do they get all their nutrients from their prey? After all, a lot of them are green, which means they contain chlorophyll, right? Learn the answer to this question in this article.
Plant blindness is a term coined years ago, yet the phenomenon continues to affect humans. Unfortunately, conservation efforts, research, and studies ultimately depend on each individual one of us fighting it.
Are you looking for ways to get involved in botany or potentially become a botanist? Most entry-level botany jobs will require that you have a bachelor’s degree at least, or a master’s degree in botany depending on the work and responsibilities you are taking on. No matter what you want to pursue in botany, some relevant experience will help you get the jobs or volunteer opportunities you want.
At its roots, botany is the study of plants. There are around 400,000 known plant species currently living on this plant, but the average person knows about only a handful, and many of those are agriculture plants that have been brought to supermarkets.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when you start thinking about botany. Plants are a keystone to our existence and survival on this earth and as such, they have a long history of being entangled with our lives in many ways; many ethnobotanists studying the relationships between plants and humans know this firsthand.
There are other specializations that you’ll find in botany that can lead to incredible discoveries and a furthered appreciation for the natural world. The scope of botany is as large as the earth itself and can easily span into the past with help from knowledgeable paleobotanists, unlocking genetic and ancestral mysteries about the plants we know today.
Botany has such a wide range of importance to humans that it can be difficult to separate out our history from plants’. While the same might be said for animals, plants have provided us with everything we needed.
From feminine hygiene products and diapers made of absorbent mosses, to many commonly known plants such as lamb’s ear and yarrow serving as wound care supplies in field medicine, plants and humans have long since been connected with each other.
Botany serves many important purposes in all specializations, giving us a better scientific understanding of our world in many ways:
Even in the advent of modern supplies and medicine, many of these materials are (or were) derived from plants in some fashion.
Common medicines like aspirin are derived from salicylic acid; something you can find commonly in the inner root bark of willow trees.
If you look around you, plastic notwithstanding, you’re likely to find something that was at some point in time, derived from plants.
Whether it’s a degree removed, like the synthetic-fiber washcloth in your bathroom, or directly derived like the wood of your kitchen counters or tables, plants still provide us with everything we need, from food to medicine, shelter, and clothing.
Human history is so entangled with plants’ that many people or cultures are fiercely protective of these species, whether it’s a commodity to them to help them continue their livelihoods, or a lifelong purpose to act on behalf of healthy biodiversity and conservation.
Because of this, there are plenty of incredible historical acts that arose, making spy movies seem vanilla in comparison.
Accounts of smuggling, such as Henry Wickham’s acclaimed “greatest biopiracy in the 19th century” according to the Museo Barco Historicos in Peru, where 70,000 rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) seeds were smuggled back to the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London under the pretense of being unviable academic studies, they were germinated and later distributed across the world.
Charles Darwin studied plants, among many things in the natural world, to solidify and bring to light his theory of evolution and natural selection around the same time that Gregor Mendel became known as the “Father of Genetics” after studying genetic inheritance in peas.
These moments, like so many others in botany, were made by explorers, naturalists, and scientists who were passionate about their craft and understood its importance to humans.
Because botany is such a wide and diverse subject of study, many botanists specialize in a certain area to narrow their focus and apply their knowledge at a more hands-on level that suits their interests.
For some, the idea of staying in a lab and detailing findings through a microscope might sound like the definition of fun. For others, they might instead want to look back into the past and unlock the mysteries of evolution with the help of ancient, fossilized plant samples that might not exist anymore.
Each of these paths are valid aspects of botany that provide useful research and further our understanding of the natural world.
Plant anatomy is the study of internal plant structure, primarily at the microscopic or cellular level. This typically involves looking at the different tissues present in plants to understand how it functions and what its purpose is within the plant.
An example of this might be in the internal study of the abscission layer in stems to better understand how environmental factors progress its development until leaves ultimately fall from the plant.
Plant morphology, on the other hand, is the study of the external structure of plants, such as leaf shape.
An example of this might be researching apical dominance to understand how plants select the right shoot to start growing up in a plant with multiple branches.
Plant biochemistry is the study of chemical reactions within plants and how they interact on a molecular or cellular level. This is a subsect of botany just as much as it is a subsect of chemistry, combining the two interests into a highly specialized field of study.
Biochemists may research plant chemicals, such as auxin and how it moves throughout the plant in response to light, ultimately bending stems and other plant tissues. It may also be essential to understanding certain plant compounds with the intent to synthesize them for other applied purposes.
A discipline dedicated to the study of ancient plants, paleobotany is archaeology for the plant world. In this line of work, botanists find and study fossilized plants which may contain stage of evolution, or could be useful in identifying and studying plants that no longer exist in our modern world.
Paleobotanists often work hand-in-hand with geologists and archaeologists as they all, in some way, aim to discover more about the past and how our world has developed. Many of the plants paleobotanists study will be fossilized in rocks, wood, amber, or other kinds of materials that have since preserved tissue structures and shapes of the plant specimen.
Agronomy is the botanical study of plants for the purpose of food, fuel, and other raw materials that benefit humans. Some fields of agronomic study focus on conservation, as well.
This field of study is an important part of the development of raw materials from increasing yields to improving cell structures and genetics in a way that provides new crops with desirable traits.
Meteorologists and soil scientists often work together with agronomists to advance certain goals of both science and technology. Agronomists also often work together with farmers or horticulturalists when necessary.
Ethnobotanists work to discover the links – current and past – to plants and people, studying the cultural relationships between people and how they utilize plants throughout their daily lives. Commonly, the focus is on native plants to a certain region, with ethnobotanists specializing in a particular area of the world.
This specialization is important because of how much of our daily needs are provided for by plants, whether it’s food, shelter, dyes, fabrics, medicine, poisons, or a myriad of other resources. Ethnobotanists may also focus on cataloging oral histories of plant uses wherever possible to preserve historical knowledge and understanding.
Plant genetics focuses on the study of genes, inheritance, and genetic variation throughout generations. At the intersection of biology, botany, horticulture, and many other life sciences, plant geneticists are always looking for new ways to understand how plants work on a molecular and generational level.
Plant pathologists, on the other hand, study pathogens and diseases that affect plants. Their goal is to better understand how certain pathogens and diseases affect plants, how the plant reacts on a molecular level, and determine the root cause of these diseases, whether it is because of infectious organisms or certain environmental conditions.
Botany, at an unspecialized level, is the study of plants, whereas horticulture often focuses on agricultural or ornamental plants.
Botanists are at the forefront of discovery, performing research and tests, making predictions, and deriving theories often towards a goal, like furthering medical research or unlocking genetic mysteries.
Horticulturalists will apply botanical science – discovered by botanists – to achieve a certain affect, sometimes discovering new traits or outcomes in the process.
In practical application for career purposes, horticulture is considered the more hands-on, actionable field of study whereas botany is the more analytical, exploratory field of study. While one might have more appeal than the other depending on your personality and personal interests, both are essential in better understanding the world around us.
Botany in any form is a wonderful career, and the world needs more scientists.
While many in the field today are under-funded and under-paid, the shape of botanical science depends on those entering the field in current and future generations.
Change can be made from within the industry, and supporters of the sciences can help.
You too, can be a supporter of botanical sciences, and it all starts on HerbSpeak.
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