Study Guide

Plant Biology

Plant Biology Introduction

Whether you are an expert gardener, amateur botanist, or are a person who has never thought about the trees your dog pees on, you should care about plants. Why? You can’t live without them! Plants keep your house safe in Plants vs. Zombies, and also form the basis of every terrestrial ecosystem. 

Even ignoring the fact that the fibers in your clothes, the paper in your books, and the flour in your designer cupcakes all come from plants, we still have to thank them for a lot. Almost all the energy used on Earth originated as a photon hitting a plant leaf and being converted to sugar. The fossil fuels we use to heat our homes, move us around, and turn into plastic odds and ends originated as plant material millions of years ago. There wouldn’t be an iPad today without the lily pad millions of years ago. Now you can even buy water bottles, forks and plates made directly from plants. 

All of these modern conveniences come from the diverse array of evolutionary changes that make up the plant kingdom. Plants can be incredibly varied in their form and function; they can be trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses. Forbs, not to be confused with the billionaire Steve Forbes, are small flowering plants that aren’t grasses or grains. If it weren’t for the astonishing diversity of plants we’d have no balm for sunburn (no Aloe vera), and even worse no one would coo coo for CoCo Puffs without Theobroma cacao

Plants don’t just make useful products for humans. Ever go into a park or a forest on a hot summer day and notice it’s cooler under the trees? Plants provide shade and can really help cool air down—not a task to be taken lightly in this changing climate of ours. So let’s explore more about plants in this section, and get to know how they shape our world!

Plant Biology Resources

Cal Flora
A huge database of California plant photos.

Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden does a lot of research on plant conservation biology. Learn about plant ecology, economic botany, plant genetics, plant systematics and more.

Missouri Botanic Garden
The Missouri Botanic Garden (MoBot to its friends) is one of the world’s famous botanic gardens, mostly because of the groundbreaking plant research that goes on there. Learn about their research, or get gardening tips from their website.

Redwood National Park.
Learn more about redwood ecosystems and the plants and animals that live in them.

The National Tropical Botanic Garden
Find out about lots of tropical plants, including which ones are poisonous and which ones are edible, from the National Tropical Botanic Garden.

The Royal Botanic Garden at Kew
Learn why the Millenium Seed Bank at Kew is hoarding seeds, and also how plants are used for thing we use everyday.

The Oldest Pear Tree
Read about the oldest pear tree in the United States, and learn some plant biology along the way.

Purple Tomatoes
Would you eat purple tomatoes? What if we told you they fight disease? What if we told you they were an example of genetic engineering?

Cacti Clean Up Cloudy Water
Cacti, it turns out, are good for more than sticking their spines in people. Substances isolated from cactus water can kill bacteria and remove arsenic from polluted water. Very cool.

Careers in Botany
Like plants so much you want to get paid to work with them? Check out some of the careers available in botany from the Botanical Society of America.