Volume 1, Issue 33 - May 8, 2005

"As Spring continues to blossom and lead us into the summer months, it’s timely to focus on the science of botany. One of the oldest branches of biology, botany covers the reproduction, growth, metabolism, and evolution of plants. This includes not only plant make up, but uses of plants and the diseases which can affect them. Traditionally botany has included the study of algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Current science suggests bacteria, algae and fungi are their own distinct kingdoms, but most botany courses still include them in the scope of botanical study.

We’ve come a long way from the early study of plants. In ancient times science was a matter of empirical observation. The very first ancient documents about plants that came down on us regarded plants mainly under the aspects of utility and medicinal use. The interest of the Greeks focused more on the comparison of animal and man on one hand and plants on the other. By the time Carolus Linnaeus published his Systema Naturae in 1735, man was ready to systematically classify plants (and animals) by consistent standards which were agreed upon based on that same empirical approach to understanding the natural world.

In the 1800s two men brought the life sciences into the modern age through their work. Gregor Mendel made great strides in his experiments in plant hybridization which have become the foundation upon which all modern genetics is based. His principles of uniformity, segregation and independent assortment set standards for botanical research that are still used today. Likewise, Darwin’s work on natural selection and evolution included studies on the movements and habits of climbing plants, insectivorous plants, the effects of cross- and self-fertilization in the vegetable kingdom, and the different forms of flowers on plants of the same species.

One-hundred and fifty years later, here we are at the precipice of a new millennium, still learning about the plant kingdom Linnaeus introduced some three-hundred years ago. Students of all ages love to learn about plant life, in part because it is all around them. Also, plants make great subjects for experiments and projects. As we turn towards summer once again, consider these online botany resources to share with your aspiring young scientists!....."

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