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Botany (Ha, Morrow, and Algiers)

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  • Botany generally refers to the study of plants, but other organisms are often included in the field such as photosynthetic bacteria, fungi, algae, and slime molds. Plants are multicellular organisms with complex, eukaryotic cells that contain cell walls, chloroplasts, and other cell structures that are absent in animal cells. They can be studied at many levels, ranging from the molecules that comprise them to cells and tissues to organs (flowers, leaves, roots, etc.) to organ systems (shoot system and roots systems). Each structure in the plant body is adapted to optimize its function, whether it be photosynthesis, support, nutrient absorption, transportation, or reproduction. Plant physiology explores the chemistry and physics of these functions, including how they respond to the environment, coordinate responses using hormones, gather energy and nutrients, and change throughout their life cycles. Plant ecology examines even larger scales, including plant populations and their roles in communities and ecosystems (figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). Humans rely on plants for food, fiber, and medicines, and to provide clean air, erosion control, and other services. Unfortunately, human activities resulting in habitat loss, climate change, and pollution threaten plant biodiversity, but current and future conservation efforts slow the loss of biodiversity.

    A sunny hill packed with orange, yellow, and purple wildflowers
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): A superbloom at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in Central California. Superblooms occur when more wildflowers germinate and simultaneously flower than usual, often due to a wet year following a drought. While the bright colors are aesthetic to people, they are adaptations to attract pollinators, facilitating reproduction. Image by Bob Wick, BLM (public domain).

    This book is authored and curated by Melissa Ha, Maria Morrow, and Kammy Algiers. Additional attributions for resources are used are listed on each page. This book is licensed CC-BY-NC except for pages that state otherwise.