Plant Taxonomy


Learn to systematically examine a plant’s distinguishing characteristics, then determine its scientific classification based upon those observations.

Course CodeBHT344
Fee CodeS4
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


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Learn to systematically examine a plant’s distinguishing characteristics

- then determine its scientific classification based upon those observations.

Accurate plant identification is more than just a means of avoiding poisonous plants. It is a skill which should be an essential requirement for anyone working with plants and especially in horticulture. Taxonomy is the term used to describe the practice and science of naming and classifying any organisms, and in our case plants. It relies on accurate descriptions and rules of nomenclature to facilitate identification. To attempt to select, grow, and use plants in any context without taxonomic skill is at best foolhardy, and at worst it can be outright dangerous.

There are also economic reasons for being able to identify plants. The development of new plant cultivars can be time-consuming and costly, but it is very important to commercial horticulture in order to improve continually the cultivars available in terms of productivity and quality. Anyone who devotes significant resources to developing a new cultivar needs to be able to establish and prove their commercial rights to that plant in order to obtain fair and profitable gain from their investment. Systems for establishing such rights exist in most developed countries.

 

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Taxonomy
    • Introduction to Plant Taxonomy
    • Scientific Vs. Vernacular Names
    • Linnaeus
    • Binomials
    • Uniformity
    • Protein Analysis
    • Ranks and Language
    • Ranks of Classification - KPCOFGS
    • Plant Phyla
    • Plant Families
    • Genus and Species
    • Latin Names
    • Gardener's Ranks
    • Hybrids
    • Subspecies
    • Varieties
    • Cultivars
    • International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
    • The Basic Ideas
    • Principle of Priority
    • Legitimate Naming
    • Recent Changes to the Code
    • International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
    • Taxonomic Name Resolution Service
    • International Plant Names Index
    • Trademarks & Patents
    • Plant Breeders Rights
    • The Rise of Molecular Data
    • The Impact of Molecular Data
  2. Describing Plant Parts
    • Habit
    • Stems
    • Hairs
    • Leaves
    • Compound and Simple Leaves
    • Leaf Shapes
    • Leaf Margins
    • Leaf Structure
    • Leaf Arrangements
    • Leaf Venation
    • Leaf Modifications
    • Roots
    • Root Modifications
    • Terminology
    • Flowers
    • The Inflorescence
    • Fruits
    • Dry Fruits
    • Fleshy Fruits
    • Compound Fruits
    • A Key to the Main Types of Fruits
    • Terminology
  3. Recording & Analysing Plant Descriptions
    • Herbaria - Collecting and Preserving a Plant
    • Fresh Material
    • Arranging Plants for Pressing
    • Pressing Difficult Specimens
    • The Drying Process
    • Herbarium Specimens
    • Photographs
    • The Problem of Colour
    • The Law Relating to Plant Collecting
    • Describing a Plant on Paper
    • The Equipment You Need
    • Botanical illustration
    • Floral Diagrams
    • Floral Diagram Technique
    • Floral Formulae
    • DNA Barcoding
    • Process of Using DNA Barcoding for Plant Identification
    • Applications of DNA Barcoding
    • CHEMICAL ANALYSIS (Chemotaxonomy)
  4. Taxonomic Techniques
    • The advantages of using keys and their limitations
    • Using a key
    • The rules when making a key
    • Lamiaceae (Simplified Key)
    • Rules When Writing Couplets
    • Best Practice Points
    • Making a key
    • Why botanical families are so useful when identifying plants
  5. Primitive Plants
    • The Bryophytes
    • Mosses
    • Liverworts
    • Hornworts
    • VASCULAR PLANTS or tracheophytes
    • Vascular Tissue and Why it is Important in Evolution of Life on Earth
    • A glossary to help you
    • The Lycopodiopsida (or Lycophytes)
    • Clubmosses - Plants in the family Lycopodiaceae
    • Quillworts - Plants in the Family Isoetaceae
    • Spike Mosses or Lesser Clubmosses – Plants in the Family Selaginellaceae
    • the euphyllophytes – the seed plants, horsetails, and ferns
    • The Seed Plants
    • Horsetails
    • The Ferns
  6. Seed Plants
    • The gymnosperms
    • The cycads – 1 order, 3 families, 10 genera, 285 species
    • Ginkgo - 1 order, 1 families, 1 genus, 1 species
    • The Gnetidae - 3 orders, 3 families, 3 genera, 71 species
    • Welwitschiaceae - 1 Genus, 1 Species
    • Gnetaceae - 1 Genus, 30 Species
    • The conifers - 3 orders, 6 families, 69 genera, 591 species
    • The Conifers’ Life History
    • The Cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetidae — How they Differ from the Conifers
    • The Six Families of Conifers
    • The Angiosperms
    • Flowers and Why they are Important in Evolution of Life on Earth
    • The Flowering Plant’s Life History
    • The Diversity of Angiosperms
  7. Phylogeny of Land Plants
    • Introduction
    • Darwin’s Tree of Life Metaphor - The Hidden Bond of Descent
    • Why Use DNA Sequences for Classification?
    • The Principle of Monophyly
    • The Phylogeny of Land Plants
    • The major changes in flowering plant taxonomy
    • The End of the Monocot-Dicot Split
    • Finally, Some Resolution Within the Monocots
    • Some Surprises
    • Name Changes Resulting from the Increase in Evidence
    • When Applying the Principle of Monophyly Results in Name Changes
    • What we can learn from phylogenies
  8. Monocotyledons
    • Summary of Important Families
    • The Monocots — SIGNIFICANT FAMILIES
    • Arecaceae
    • Aizoaceae (syn. Ficoidaceae)
    • Dioscoraceae
    • Liliaceae
    • Orchidaceae
    • Iridaceae
    • Amaryllidaceae
    • Asparagaceae
    • Arecaceae
    • Pontederiaceae
    • Musaceae
    • Bromeliaceae
    • Poaceae
    • Cyperaceae
    • Juncaceae
  9. Dicotyledons (Part I)
    • IMPORTANT DICOT FAMILIES
    • Key to Selected Angiosperm Families
    • Lower-growing Soft-wooded Plants
    • Apiaceae
    • Asteraceae
    • Brasicaceae
    • Cactaceae
    • Crassulaceae
    • Euphorbiaceae
    • Gesneriaceae
    • Lamiaceae
    • Ranunculaceae
    • Solanaceae
  10. Dicotyledons (Part 2)
    • Fabaceae - Papilionoideae, Mimosoideae, Caesalpinoideae
    • Fagaceae
    • Ericaceae
    • Magnoliaceae
    • Malvaceae
    • Myrtaceae
    • Ongaraceae
    • Rosaceae
    • Proteaceae
    • Rutaceae
    • Rubiaceae

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.

Aims

  • Explain how plants are classified, including both benefits of and contradictions within the scientific system as followed by horticulturists and botanical scientists across different parts of the world
  • Examine and describe parts of a plant, both sexual and asexual, at various stages of the plant’s life cycle.
  • Process descriptive information about a plant using taxonomic techniques that involve processing that data to create a better understanding and/or record of that information.
  • Explain a variety of tools used in taxonomic work.
  • Explain the taxonomy of land plants that do not produce seeds.
  • Explain taxonomy of a range of significant, seed producing plants, including gymnosperms.
  • Explain the relationship between different types of plants (i.e. phylogeny), and how molecular information impacts on this in taxonomic considerations.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of monocotyledon plants, through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of dicotyledon plants which predominantly contain lower growing soft wooded plants or herbs; through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of dicotyledon plants which predominantly contain woody trees and shrubs; through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.

There is a system to identifying plants

This course shows you that system; and makes plant identification so much easier.

Botanists, horticulturists, and other plant experts have used a variety of methods to record and analyse information, specific to plants. Some methods such as botanical illustration or  collecting and preserving specimens have been used for hundreds of years, and others such as digital photography are much more recent developments.

Knowing these techniques, and the relative value of each, is to know and better use the tools of a taxonomist.

THIS IS A SUBJECT THAT EVERYONE WHO WORKS WITH PLANTS SHOULD MASTER



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Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
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.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
Timothy Walker

B.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. fmr manager Oxford Bodanic Gardens