Botany is the branch of biology that deals with plants. It involves the study of the structure, properties, and biochemical processes of all forms of plant life, including trees.

Also included within its scope are plant classification and the study of plant diseases and of the interactions of plants with their physical environment. Over the years various specialized branches of botany have developed, and the principles and findings of botany, moreover, have provided the base on which depend such applied plant sciences as agriculture, horticulture, and forestry.

The science of botany traces back to the ancient Greco-Roman world but received its modern impetus in Europe in the 16th century, mainly through the work of various physicians and herbalists.

These professionals, in seeking plants useful in medicine, began seriously to observe plants themselves, as reflected in the woodcuts with which their herbal books were illustrated.

In the 17th century, as a result of the earlier revival of learning and of increased facilities for travel and study in Europe and Asia, many more plants became known, and some botanists turned from medical botany to attempts to name and catalog all known kinds of plants.

The most celebrated early work of this kind was Pinax theatri botanici (1623; "Illustrated Exposition of Plants") by the Swiss scientist Gaspard Bauhin, who listed and described about 6,000 species.

In the 18th century the greatest figure in botany was the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus. His most valuable and lasting contributions were his careful descriptions of approximately 6,000 species arranged in genera (the same arrangement used today), his collation of the species that he knew with the names and descriptions of previous botanists, and his rules of nomenclature.

He established binomial nomenclature--i.e., the naming of each species by two words, of which the first is the name of the genus to which it belongs and the second is a qualifying word, usually an adjective (e.g., the dog rose is Rosa canina).

Even in this early period, botany was becoming specialized.

While many botanists were occupied only with the classes and names of plants, the foundations of anatomy, morphology, and physiology were being laid. The important field of genetics was initiated in the 19th century, principally through the work of the Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel.

Today the principal branches of botanical study are morphology, physiology, ecology, and systematics (the identification and ranking of all plants). Various subdisciplines include bryology (the study of mosses and liverworts), pteridology (the study of ferns and their relatives), paleobotany (the study of fossil plants), and palynology (the study of modern and fossil pollen and spores).


The biggest smelliest flower is now in Ca. August 2002 - BBC

Symbiosis has deep roots June 2002 - Nature Magazine

Gene Found That Controls Stomatal Cell Growth In Plants June 2002 - Science daily

Fossilized Chinese plant may have been the first flower May 2002 - BBC
The ancestor of all the grains, fruits and blossoms of the modern world may have been a fragile water plant that lived in a Chinese lake approximately 125 million years ago. The plant, called Archaefructus sinensis for "ancient fruit from China," is of a species never before seen and carries the clear characteristics of the most primitive of flowering plants.

World's Biggest, Smelliest Flower Puts on Sex Show May 2002 - Reuters
A huge flower, said to smell of rotting flesh and
excrement, has bloomed again at London's Kew Gardens.

'Living fossil' trees found in Australia

December 16, 2000 - AP

Botanists have discovered a stand of "living fossil" trees from a species that dates back to prehistoric times in the dense rainforests north of Sydney, authorities said Friday.

About 20 mature trees found in the Nightcap Range about 400 miles north of Sydney bear nuts similar in structure to those discovered in fossilized form in 1875 by botanist Baron Ferdinand von Mueller.

"It gives us another small paragraph or a page of the insight into the evolution of flowering plants and the incredible changes that have occurred on this continent through enormous periods of time," said botanist Peter Kooyman, who discovered the trees in August.

The exact location is being kept secret to protect the trees, state environment minister Bob Debus said.

Kooyman sent details of his find to Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, which identified the trees as belonging to the Eidothea genus.

"Eidothea were living fossils of the rainforests which once covered the ancient super-continent of Gondwanaland - now Australia, Africa, South America and New Zealand," Debus said.

The biggest of the newly discovered trees is at least 120 feet tall and has "beautiful, primitive and messy" flowers with a scent similar to aniseed, Kooyman said.

A similar discovery was made in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in 1994, when botanists discovered a stand of living fossil trees known as the Wollemi Pines.

How plants 'shout attack!'

The mites themselves could soon become the meal

August 3, 2000 - BBC

Plants know the difference between being eaten and being trampled on, according to Japanese and German researchers.

The Kyoto University-led team has found that lima beans under attack from spider mites will release chemicals that attract the insects' natural predators and warn nearby plants that there is danger about.

But if the lima beans are simply damaged - by an agricultural tool or a clumsy cow - the subtly different chemical distress signals sent out by the plants are ignored by their neighbours.

The research team says their knowledge could lead to new ways to protect plants from insect pests.

Details of their work are published in a paper that appears in the current edition of the journal Nature.

Plant aroma

Dr Junji Takabayashi, an associate professor at Kyoto, and colleagues, monitored the chemical interactions of lima bean ( Phaseolus lunatus) leaves in a glass container over several days. Some of the leaves were infested with female spider mites (Tetranychus urticae), others were not.

The team found that the plant tissue under direct attack activated genes, some of which contributed to the release of volatile compounds known as terpenoids. These are a well-known class of chemicals that influence plant aroma.

These organic compounds make the lima bean leaves more attractive to the carnivorous natural enemies of the mites. But the researchers were also able to show that the terpenoids could be "smelt" by the neighbouring leaves with no infestation, prompting them to roll out their own defences.

Modified plant

However, when the plant tissue was "artificially wounded" by having holes punched through it by the researchers, fewer genes were activated and subtly different chemicals - green-leaf volatiles - were released.

This "distress call" did not trigger the defence response in nearby plants, the team were able to show.

They hope the knowledge could prove useful in developing new ways to protect plants from insect pests.


MEDICAL & ETHNOBOTANY Herbs, Herbal Medicine