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Botany Primer For Gardeners

Botany Primer For Gardeners



Presentation designed for a 3-hr teaching session for master gardeners in Oregon. The presentation is for beginners and covers many botanical subjects at that level. It is hoped that learners will be ...

Presentation designed for a 3-hr teaching session for master gardeners in Oregon. The presentation is for beginners and covers many botanical subjects at that level. It is hoped that learners will be intrigued enough to discover more information on their own



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    Botany Primer For Gardeners Botany Primer For Gardeners Presentation Transcript

    • Botany Primer for Gardeners
      Linda R McMahan, PhD
      Botanist & Extension Horticulturist
      Oregon State University Extension
    • What We Will Cover
      Plant Diversity
      Algae, fungi and lichens
      Spore producing plants – mosses, liverworts, ferns
      Seed plants – conifers, ginkgo, and flowering plants
      Plant Structure and Growth
      Stems and roots
      Leaf structure
      Flowers and reproduction
    • Plant Diversity
      From ancient time when we began studying the world around us, we tried to understand our surroundings by labeling plants and animals
      Our current scientific understanding continues to refine relationships, but historically, many organisms have been considered to be plants even if they are not now considered to be so
      I will use the historic understanding and explain modern differences as we proceed
    • Plant Diversity
      The classification of various kinds of plants is based on reproduction
      Spore producing plants appeared on earth before seed producing plants
      Later, seed plants became more common—these are also the ones most common in our landscapes and gardens
    • Plant Diversity
      Goal: Learning the patterns of diversity will help us learn to garden with nature rather than working against it
      Fallen leaves inside umbrella plant, Darmerapeltatum
    • I. Organisms that reproduce through spores
      Algae and fungi
      Slime Molds
      Liverworts and relatives
      Sori, the spore carrying bodies on ferns, here a sword fern
    • Algae and Fungi
      Some algae are considered to be plants and some are not--fungi now reside in a separate Kingdom but many people think of them as plants
      Both reproduce using some form of spore or similar structure
    • Algae
      Include many different kinds, but the most familiar are those of streams, ponds and at the ocean shore washed up on the sand or growing on rocky shores
    • Are Algae A Problem?
      Algae by themselves are not a problem-it is not a parasite for example
      Because growth of algae requires moisture and nutrients, it will grow where these are available, such as polluted streams. Algae grows in nutrient rich streams and on sidewalks because it can find required nutrients there. Control may be necessary for safety or other reasons, but the algae itself is not the cause of the harm, they just take advantage of the conditions.
    • Fungi
      Many kinds of fungi occur on earth
      When you say “fungus”, most people will answer “mushroom” but fungi are much more complex
      As we shall see, by far the most fungi are beneficial organisms but a few do cause diseases which are of concern to gardeners
      It is important to distinguish between different kinds and not label all fungi as “bad”
    • Fungi
      Some mushrooms and other fungi are also toxic, but this is rarely a concern. Unless you know they are a problem, please don’t treat mushrooms with fungicides because this will interfere with their positive interactions with plants and the environment.
      For controlling fungi that cause disease, follow the recommendations of your local or state cooperative extension office.
    • Mushrooms in the Lawn
      Gardeners who are worried about safety can seek positive identification and information, or rake up the mushrooms and discard or compost them
    • Positive Benefits of Fungi
      Fungi are one of earth’s major decomposers, helping to return organic matter to enrich our soils
      Soil fungi form mutually beneficial relationships with plants called mycorrhizae
    • How Fungi Reproduce
      Fungi reproduce through spores that become airborne
      The visible part of a fungus is usually the spore-producing body
      The larger mass of the fungus is fine fungal strands that are often underground or inside a decaying organism
      A “mushroom” is one kind of fungal spore producing body
    • Fungi
      Mushrooms and other spore producing bodies are often the most visible part of the fungus
      Mushrooms growing in an arc or ring are sometimes called a “fairy ring”
      Yellow houseplant mushroom
    • Not all spore producing bodies are “mushrooms”
      Cup-like spore producing bodies in cracks in a brick walkway
      Cup style spore bodies in moss on a decaying branch
    • Mycorrhizae
      Most soil fungi form relationships with most plants in a mutually beneficial relationship called mycorrhizae
      Perhaps every plant shown in this forest clearing has associations with soil fungi
    • Mycorrhizae
      Mycorrhizae are found in the roots of the plants where tissues of the two organisms intertwine
      Fungal strands are in contact with the soil and extend the absorption capacity of the roots
      Fungi gain the benefit of photosynthetic nutrients made by the plants
    • A new way to look at forests and gardens
      Part of the magic of this relationship is that individual plants may form associations with dozens of different fungi
      And, each fungus may form associations with dozens of trees
      Together, these create a network of interactions
    • Slime Molds
      Slime molds are not technically fungi nor plants
      They grow in moist, usually warm conditions such as forests and damp gardens
      They are another form of decomposer but can alarm people who have not seen them before
      Slime mold spore producing bodies on turf grass. Oregon State University Plant Clinic
    • Slime molds in the garden
      Slime molds have two phases. A moving mass first grows on decaying leaves, compost, or stumps. The spore producing phase is harder and often colorful. Both phases are ephemeral, disappearing only a few days or weeks after their appearance.
      Spore producing structures of a slime mold on the back of an oak leaf
    • Lichens, a “special” group
      Lichens are usually small and are not individual organisms
      Instead, they are a combination of two different organisms—one is a fungus, and the other is algae
      British soldiers, a ground dwelling lichen
    • Lichens
      Most are gray or greenish
      The visible part is the fungus, the algae are inside
      Lichens are another mutually beneficial relationship
      Several kinds of lichens on a tree branch
    • Lichens
      Both algal and fungal partners benefit from this relationship
      Algae gain a moist environment and the fungus gains photosynthetic nutrients
      Together, they inhabit places like this rock where neither could if they were alone
      Lichens growing on a rock
    • Lichens
      Some gardeners are worried about lichen, but they are not a disease and cause no harm to the plant
      Various lichens are indicative of good or bad air quality, an aid to understanding our environment
      White and brown lichen on a tree trunk
    • Mosses
      Are common in the moist habitats
      Reproduce by spores
      Are of short stature because they lack an organized vascular system to move water and nutrients
      Help maintain moisture and provide homes for small creatures
      Mosses and tiny mushrooms on a downed log
    • Mosses
      Mosses are a healthy part of gardens and ecosystems
      They often grow in lawns when the lawns themselves are not robust
      Mosses are opportunists and will grow wherever the habitat is appropriate
    • Liverworts and other forest floor plants
      Liverworts and their relatives have been on earth since ancient times
      They reproduce by spores
      They usually grow in natural habitats but sometimes can be found in gardens
      They are not harmful in a garden setting
      Selaginella, usually a forest dweller
    • Liverworts
      One species of liverwort has become adapted to live in nursery pots and is considered to be a pest by nursery owners
      Once in the garden, they usually disappear after a time and cause no harm
    • Horsetails
      Perhaps no plant has caused such concern to tidy gardeners as the common horsetail. Rapidly spreading underground in a favorable environment, this plant can become quite a pest.
      Horsetail, Equisetum, showing the spore producing branches that appear before the typical green branches
    • Horsetails
      Here is the familiar horsetail form
      Horsetails of many kinds are native around the world
      Control is usually through persistent hand weeding or tolerance
    • Ferns
      Ferns also reproduce by spores
      Ferns are popular garden plants and some forms thrive in most, shady garden conditions
      Licorice fern growing on a tree trunk
    • Ferns
      Typically the fern leaves, called fronds, uncurl as they open such as shown here
      Bracken fern in spring
    • Ferns
      Spores are produced on the backs of the fronds or sometimes on separate modified leaves that only bear spores
      Sword fern spore bodies
    • 2. Plants that produce seeds
      We will cover three kinds of seed bearing plants
      Flowering Plants
      Fruits of red osier dogwood, a flowering plant
    • Ginkgo
      Very ancient plants once though to be extinct
      Related to conifers but have different reproductive structures
      They are neither conifers nor flowering plants but in a group all their own
      Fall foliage and seed bearing structures on a mature female tree
    • Ginkgo biloba
      Good landscape tree, drought and pollution tolerant
      Distinctive leaf form often used in artistic work
      Native to China
    • Conifers
      Bear their seeds in cones
      Conifers also have needles or scales
      When seeds mature, cones usually open
    • Conifers
      Large group with many trees and shrubs
      Popular in gardens, particallybecause most are evergreen
      Pines, firs, cedars, juniper, larch, and many more
      An ornamental conifer with colorful cones
    • Conifers
      Cones are made up of overlaping scales
      In new female cones, the ovules are inside the cone but the scales are open to allow pollination
      After pollination, the scales usually close while the seeds mature
      Cone on an ornamental larch
    • Conifers
      Pollination time differs for each species
      Pollen is produced in tiny cones (dark orange in this tree) which is transferred by the wind to the tiny female cones at the tips of the branches
      New cones and year-old cones on a pine species
    • Flowering Plants
      A very large group, the latest to appear on earth
      Developing seeds are protected within a solid structure which becomes a fruit
      Pollen must actually grow through tissue to fertilize the ovum
    • Flowering Plants
      Include trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, vines
      Are very popular garden plants
      Are highly adapted to particular forms of pollination
      Many have very close mutually beneficial relationships with insect pollinators
      Gaillardia or blanket flower attracts bees and butterflies
    • Pollination
      Is the process of transferring pollen from one flower to another
      Typically, can be by wind, insects, water, birds, bats, or human intervention
      Honey bee pollinating a Ceanothus flower
    • Pollination
      Plants pollinated by insects are typically sweet smelling, colorful, and have places for insects to land
      The “reward” for pollination is food from nectar or pollen
      Bumblebee on an aster
    • Pollination
      Plants attracting butterflies also provide nectar—they often have a large flat surface to support the butterfly’s body
      Butterfly pollinated plants often have “butterfly partners” that use the plant as places to lay their eggs
    • Pollination
      Many other garden plants are pollinated by hummingbirds
      These flowers tend to be red or orange
      Birds can see these colors but bees cannot
      Red columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
    • Pollination
      Plants pollinated by wind have less colorful flowers
      Pollen is usually produced in catkins which contain only male flowers
      Pollen is carried by the wind to female flowers that produce seeds
      Catkins on a willow
    • Fruits
      When seeds mature, they are carried in fruits
      Fruits can be fleshy or dry and take many forms
      Berries as shown here are one type of fruit
      Calicarpa americana, the American beautyberry
    • More Fruits
      Mimulus guttatus, yellow monkey flower has dry fruits called pods
      Big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum has dry fruits called samaras
    • 3. Plant Anatomy
      Seed bearing plants all share the same basic structures
      Typical parts include leaves, stems, roots, and flowers
      Differences are in the “details” which help us tell one plant from another
    • Overall Plant Structure
      This is sweet cicely, a plant native to Oregon
      Botanists know this because it has white flower heads, each with many flowers of a certain type
      Another clue is the finely divided leaves in a particular pattern
    • Stems
      Provide overall support
      Create the “architecture” characteristic of each plant
      Have internal vascular systems for transport of water, minerals, and photosynthetic nutrients
    • Stem Structure
      This stem is woody, with wood cells for support
      The main stem has a side branch at a place called a node
      The side branch has two buds, one at the end – a terminal bud, and one on the side, called a lateral bud
    • Stem Structure
      Here is another winter twig with no leaves
      Plants that loose leaves during dormancy are called deciduous
      Note the leaf scars on the side where the leaves fell off in the fall
      Also note that the terminal bud has scales
    • Stem Structure
      Each year, when the buds break or start to grow, the bud scales fall off, leaving bud scale scars
      If you look carefully, you can sometimes see these scars circling the branch
      This helps us determine which is this year’s growth and which is last year’s
    • Plant Growth Structure
      Buds are of many types including flower buds, branch buds, and mixed buds
      Lateral branch or mixed buds can grow into branches under the right conditions
    • Plant Growth Structure
      Note that the small branch is growing from a node area, just above the leaf
      The buds that produce branches are usually in this location, leading to another name: axillarybud
    • Kinds of Branching
      The kind of branching on the last slide is called alternate
      Here, the type of branching is called opposite
      The kind of leaf pattern and branching pattern leads to different shapes of plants
    • Woody Stems
      Woody plants grow differently than herbaceous plants
      Herbaceous plants are most commonly annuals, biennials, or perennials, which create new aerial growth each year
    • Woody Stems
      Here is a cross-section through a tree, showing typical woody structure
      On the outside is bark
      Right inside the bark is tissue called phloem that actively transports photosynthetic nutrients
    • Woody Plants
      The inner part is xylem tissue that transports water and is considered to be the “woody part”
      This is also where we see growth rings, which can indicate the age of the tree
    • Woody Plants
      One growth ring is formed each year
      At the beginning of each growth season, cells are large
      At the end of the season, they are smaller and more dense, leading to the darker “rings”
      The oldest growth of the tree is in the center
    • Woody Plants
      Nutrient and water transport happen on the outer edges of the tree or shrub
      For this reason, it is important to protect the bark; injury can lead to disruptions of nutrient and water flow and growth
    • Leaves
      Leaves are usually the site of the process of photosynthesis, using the sun’s energy to create sugars and other nutrients
      They also have unique patterns that help us identify plants
    • Leaf Characteristics – Vein Patterns
      The vascular system of plants moves through leaves in 3 kinds of patterns
      The pattern shown here is called a parallel vein pattern
      Parallel veins on a lily plant
    • Parallel Vein Patterns
      Parallel vein patterns
      Occur in a group of plants called Monocotyledons or “Monocots” for short
      They include grasses, lilies, onions, and many other related groups
    • More Parallel Vein Patterns
      Mianthemum dilitatum, false lily of the valley
      Disporum species
    • Pinnately Veined
      Vein patters are also sometimes called venation
      Pinnatelyveined leaves have veins in a feather-like pattern
      This is a common pattern and signifies that the plant is in the group Dicotyledon or “Dicots” for short
    • More Pinnate Vein Patterns
      Leaf skeleton of a magnolia
    • Palmately Veined Leaves
      Palmately veined leaves are the third pattern
      Main veins arise from the point of attachment, sort of like the fingers from the palm of a hand
      These are also found in the group called “Dicots”
    • More PalmatelyVeined Leaves
      Fringecup, Tellima gandiflora
      A water lily
    • Petioles
      Most leaves have a stem like structure connecting the leaf blade to the stem
      These are called petioles
      Some leaves do not have petioles, which helps us distinguish one plant from another
    • Leaf Edges
      Patterns of leaf edges also help us distinguish plants
      This is one of many edge patterns or margins
      This one is called a toothed margin
    • Simple Leaves
      Leaves with just one undivided leaf blade are called simple leaves
      Several simple leaves on a branch are shown here
      Oceanspray, Holodiscus discolor
    • Simple Leaves
      Remember, each leaf has a bud associated with it to facilitate branching
      Several leaves and the associated axillary buds are shown here
      Salal, Gaultheria shallon
    • Compound Leaves
      Compound leaves have more than one blade, each is called a leaflet
      There are several patterns of compound leaves, this one is pinnately compound and has 7 leaflets
      Oregon ash, Fraxinus latifolius
    • Compound Leaves
      Here is another example of a pinnately compound leaf
      Remember, you can determine what is a leaf by looking for the bud at its base
      This plant gives us a clue because the entire leaf is reddish- it has 11 leaflets
      Berberis nervosa, long leaf Oregon grape
    • Compound Leaves
      Another pattern is palmately compound leaves
      This one has 7 leaflets
    • Compound Leaves
      Once again, the way to tell a leaf from a leaflet is to look for the axillary bud
      This is difficult to determine in a photographs but is usually much easier in a hand-held sample
      Wild lupine
    • Compound Leaves
      One more pattern is also common and is doubly compound
      This particular pattern is called bipinnately compound
      Sometimes they are described as finely divided in herbaceous species
    • Leaf Adaptations
      Leaves can be modified to perform many different functions
      These leaves are modified to catch insects in an insectivorous plant
      California pitcher plant, Darlingtoniacalifornica
    • Modified Leaves
      This Pacific Northwest native plant has leaves modified for vegetative reproduction
      Piggyback plant, Tolmiea menziesii
    • More Modified Leaves
      Floating leaves on a water lily
      Spines on a cactus
    • Roots
      Since roots are underground, we seldom think about their presence
      Major functions include support, absorption of water and minerals, and storage of carbohydrates and other photosynthetic nutrients
      Large underground storage root of the wild cucumber
    • Roots
      Even though we do not usually see roots, they are sometimes massive structures underground
      For example, roots of this ash tree, and even the herbaceous plants beneath it, will extend many feet beyond the canopy of the above ground part of the plant
      Veratrum emerging in the spring next to the trunk of an Oregon ash, Fraxinus latifolius
    • Roots
      Woody plants also have woody roots
      Clip art showing roots of a tree
    • Roots
      Carrots, like those shown here in a pretend bunny, are tap roots. Their main structure is a single enlarged root with smaller roots off the surface
      Tap roots often serve as storage for carbohydrates and other nutrients
    • Roots
      Roots of many if not most herbaceous plants are fibrous, such as in this bulb
      Clip art
    • Flowers and Fruits
      The existence of flowers is one of the reasons we garden
      Even vegetable gardens usually require flowers because fruits cannot form without them
    • Flowers
      The purpose of flowers is to produce seeds
      A side product is that gardeners and pollinators can enjoy the benefits they provide
      Flowers of Rosa nutkana (Nutka rose) and Physocarpus capitatus (ninebark)
    • Flowers
      A typical flower has four countable parts: Sepals, petals, stamens and pistils
      Sepals and petals are the outer parts—sepals are usually green and petals are usually colorful
    • Flowers
      Many flowers are not typical
      In this iris, for example, the three smaller petal-like structures are acutally sepals. The larger three are the petals
    • Flowers
      This trillium has the more typical pattern with three green sepals and three white petals
      The sepals are the outer layer of a flower and usually cover the flower bud before it opens
      Both iris and trillium are Monocots
      Trillium ovatum
    • Monocot Flowers
      Plants with flower parts in groups of 3 or multiples of 3 are usually in the subgroup Monocots
      Note the parallel venation on this plant, which support that classification
      Slinkpod, Scoliopus bigelovii
    • Dicot Flowers
      Flowers with flower parts in groups of 2,4,5 or multiples are usually Dicots
      This flower has 4 petals so is most likely a Dicot
      Notice that the central stigma (we will cover those later) is also split into 4 at the tip
      Flower of a Clarkia species
    • Dicot Flowers
      These flowers also have 4 petals
      Look for the 4 smaller sepals
      Also note the vein pattern is pinnate
      This is a Dicot
      Fireweed, Epilobium
    • Dicot Flowers
      In this penstemon, the petals are fused into a tube
      You can still determine that it has 5 petals however by looking at the number of flower lobes
      Notice the nectar guides, lines that point toward the center of the flower
    • Dicot Flowers
      Notice that these flowers also have a fused petal tube, and you can distinguish 5 lobes
      Also note the nectar guides in this flower
      This is another Dicot
      Yellow monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus
    • Flowers That Break the Rules
      Many flowers “break the rules”—learning to be observant will help you know plants better
      In skunk cabbage and some other plants, the colorful part is a spathe and the flowers themselves are very small and located on the whitish spikes
    • Flowers That Break the rules
      In dogwoods, what appear to be petals are actually modified and colorful leaves called bracts
      The many flowers are in clusters in the center of the bracts
    • Flowers That Break the Rules
      Some flower form tight clusters such as this wild carrot
      Each structure has many flowers, and each of these can bear seeds
      This kind of flat-top structure is called an umbel-umbel plants often attract butterflies
    • Flowers That Break the Rules
      All plants of the sunflower family form flowering structures called flowering heads
      It looks like one large flower but instead is many tiny ones grouped together
      Each “petal” is a separate flower for example
    • Flowers That Break the rules
      This is another member of the sunflower family
      Notice the tiny circular ring of flowers in the flowering head in the lower right
      Each of the tiny flowers in this ring is blooming and each will produce a single seed
    • The Sexual Parts
      Although petals and sepals can be attractive, the real work of the flower occurs in the sexual parts
      Stamens bear the pollen
      Pistils bear the ovules that become seeds when fertilized
      Erythronium flower with pendulous stamens and pistils
    • The Sexual Parts
      Look carefully at the central part of this flower
      Look for 6 stamens and 1 central pistil
      The pistil ends with a pink stigma split three ways
      The stigma is usually sticky and will hold pollen delivered by a pollinator, in this case probably a bee
      A cat’s ear, Calochortus species
    • The Sexual Parts
      In this flower, note the 5 stamens and central pistil
      Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum
    • The Sexual Parts
      This flower has numerous stigmas ready to release their pollen
      In the center is one pistil with the stigma divided into many parts
      Camelia sasanqua
    • Fertilization
      Once pollination occurs, the pollen grain begins to grow and sends a tube down through the pistil
      This leads to fertilization and the production of seeds
      A species of wild rose, Rosa sp.
    • Fruits and Seeds
      Seeds of flowering plants are carried in some kind of fruit structure
      This Asian pear is a kind of fruit called a pome and the seeds are inside
      Seeds are disseminated by foraging animals and the seeds pass through the digestive system
    • Fruits and Seeds
      Seeds of this wild plant called a baneberry are most likely disseminated by birds
      The seeds are toxic, but since birds do not chew, the seeds pass unharmed through the bird’s digestive tract
      Actea rubra
    • Fruits and Seeds
      Seeds of these lupines are carried in pods
      Pods open along lines to release the seeds when they are ready
      The red flowers are another species, Mimulus cardinalis
      Lupinus polyphyllus
    • Fruits and Seeds
      Seeds of milkweeds have white parachute like attachments
      These are disseminated by wind
    • Fruits and Seeds
      This is cow parsnip which has flowers in the umbel form
      This flat-topped structure persists in seed formation
      This is one of the plants that also supports the growth of butterflies
    • Fruits and Seeds
      Beechnut produces seeds that are nuts
      The nuts are carried within an outer structure that splits open at maturity and releases the seeds to the soil below
      They may also be carried by animals to new locations
    • Fruits and Seeds
      This pod has opened to reveal the seeds inside
      Each seed is capable of producing a new plant which grows from a tiny embryo inside
      Peony seeds
    • Seed Germination
      Under suitable conditions seeds germinate into new plants and the cycle starts anew
      Clip art
    • This is the End
      This is the end of our brief beginning tour of botany for gardeners
      We have only touched the surface and there is much more to discover and know
      I wish you luck on this journey
      Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swam’
    • Botany Primer for Gardeners
      Created by Linda McMahan, Botanist and Community Horticulture Faculty, Oregon State University Extension Service in 2010
      All photographs except as noted are those of the author. This presentation and included materials may be freely used for educational purposes. For other uses, please contact the author at