Plant Biology


Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, the student should:
● Appreciate the principles and terminology of plant form, anatomy, physiology, developoment and diversity
● Be able to explain the principles of underlying plant taxonomy, eco-physiology, evolution and biotechnology
● Be able to draw and label the anatomical features of plant specimens at the macroscopic and microscopic levels
● Be able to analyse and discuss plant physiological experimental data


The module provides a basic overview of plants at the organism level: their structures, development, functional processes and diversity.


The lectures first explore the various structural features found in the plant kingdom, starting with the basic types of cells and tissues. The morphologies and internal organization of plant organs are reviewed, covering: the primary growth of stems, leaves, roots, woody stems, flowers and fruits. Higher plants necessarily dominate this survey because of their complexity and abundance. The fundamentals of plant anatomy learnt in these lectures provide a framework for studying the functional processes of plants, i.e. their physiology.

The major physiological mechanisms surveyed in the module are: transport systems including the function of xylem and the ascent of sap and the association of phloem with the movement of assimilates; energy flow and photosynthetic processes; mineral nutrition and the effects of toxic metals; and water as a limiting factor. Plant growth, development, and movements are surveyed, with a discussion of the roles of plant hormones.

The diversity of the modern land flora is then discussed commencing with the nonvascular plants (mosses and liverworts). The vascular plants without seeds, such as ferns, are then reviewed, including discussions of their possible evolutionary relationships with nonvascular plants on the one hand, and the early seed plants on the other. The diversity of seed plants, including gymnosperms and angiosperms, is examined, with emphasis on the distinction between monocots and dicots.

The practical sessions are held in the second half of the semester, and are integrated with the lectures. The practicals commence with some physiological experiments. These demonstrate: the translocation of carbon in plants, and the relations between 'sources' and 'sinks'; the effects of mineral deficiencies on growth and development; the effects of light, pH and plasmolysis on the behaviour of stomata; and water saturation deficits in different species subjected to drought and waterlogging. The practicals continue with plant internal structure and the opportunity to examine plant material illustrating the diversity of the modern and fossil land flora.