Botany for Beginers

Herbal Botany

What is Botany?

  • Botanicus (late greek) and Botanikos (early greek) = fodder or plants
  • Botany is the science of studying plants (it is a science, you are dealing with chemistry , change in shape and it is a rigorous science)

Botany underpins Herbalism, in order to be a herbalist, you kind of need to be able to Identify plants. Suggested reading: ‘Botany For Gardners’ by Brian Capon – third edition.

In order to get to the fun-stuff, we have to make a groundwork. Then we can move onto the root system, leaves and families.

There are new species found every day.

Take a specimen, picture and some details about geographic location, soil type and climate.

Branches of Botany:

  • Bacteriology – study of bacteria
  • Taxonomy – naming and classifying plants
  • Morphology – study of form and structures
  • Physicology –the  study of activities and functions in plants
  • Cytology –study of plant calls
  • Geography – study of plant distribution
  • Paleobotany –study of fossil plant records
  • Genetics –the study of heredity and it’s laws (causing a lot of plants to be re-named as scientific knowledge is used to uncover genes)

Why should it be studied?

What is Taxonomy?

  • Taxonomy is the organisation of every single living things.  It deals with identification, name and class of living organisms : patterns of distribution and their phylogenic relationships
  • Species is the basic unit for taxonomy.
  • Taxonomy is based on phylogeny: which is the evolutionary or ancestral relationships between organisms and is based on the theory of evolution. And how things change over a period of time, for example as the earth getts hotter, more dark and tougher skinned people and the ability to survive on less water. Everything has/will change.
  • Comes from Greek word : Taxis = arrangement and : Nomos – law

It is divided into these branches:

  • Kingdom – we are animal
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Sub-Family
  • Tribe
  • Genus
  • Species (Latin for Kind)

In order to be put into a kingdom, you must possess a certain amount of characteristics, interbreeding is essentially unheard of between species.

Phylogeny and the Theory of Evolution

  • Phylogeny is the evolutionary or ancestral relationships between organisms and is based on the theory of evolution.
  • Theory of evolution presented by Charles Darwin. “On the Origin of Species”.
  • The idea of evolution is that the environment changes making a challenge for the organism, which it will either adapt to overcome or die. (Survival of the Fittest = giving beneficial traits to its offspring)


  • Theory of Evolution: The environment poses a challenge to the organism, the organism either dies or adapts : survival of the fittest : even for plants



5 Kingdoms

All of the living organisms can be classed into the five kingdoms

  • Kingdom Animalia – animal
    • Heterophs use autotrophs for food
    • Multicellular
    • Mobile : can move
    • Digest food by absorbtion
    • More than 1.5 million species
    • Kingdom Plantae- plant
      • Autotrophic : roots find minerals and turn it to sugar
      • More than 265,000 species
      • Eukaryotic
      • They can crawl but not move
      • Kingdom Fungi – fungi 😛
        • Eukaryotic : multicellular organisms
        • Saprobic ( get’s it’s food source by absorbing from organic decaying compounds) or Parasitic heterotrophs ( host harmed in parasite benefiting)
        • More than 100,000 species
        • Some are medicinal
        • Example: Amanita phalloides, killer, death cap mushroom
        • Kingdom Monera – single cell
          • Prokaryotic – defined by the lack of defined membrane bound nucleus or lack of membrane bound organelles and by DNA that is not organised into chromosomes -typically found in bacteria. Prokaryotes are divided into: bacteria and archaea (single cell organism). They also live in a great variety of conditions.
          •  Heterotrophic
          • Example is blue-green algae
          • Nutrients are absorbed
          • Over 5000 species documented
          • Look like a capsule with a tail (flagellum)

What you actually need to know about Monera Kingdom is 3 points.

  1. Doesn’t have DNA
  2. Single celled
  3. Good survivors but the bottom of the scale
  • Kingdom Protista –algae
    • Eukaryotic : complex cell with nucleolus
    • Mainly unicellular
    • Autotrophic : produce own food, using either light or chemical reactions
    • More than 60,000 species


Kingdoms are largely recognised worldwide.


v  Animalia Kingdom:

v  Phylum: Chordata

v  Mammalia

v  Order: Primates

v  Family: Hominidae

v  Genus: Homo

v  Species: Sapiens

(Phylum is the second major taxa, and so on as you go down the list)

Plant Diversity

v  Species : Common Ancestry

v  Genus : When Species share a common ancestry

v  Family : Related Genera (genus) are grouped

v  Phyla : Related families  : this makes up a kingdom

  • Dandelion:
    • Kingdom: Plantae
    • Phylum: Magnoliophyta
    • Class:  Magnoliopsida
    • Family: Asteraceae
    • Sub-Family: Cichorioideae
    • Tribe: Lactucae
    • Genus: Taraxacum
    • Species: Taraxacum Officinal

12 Phyla of the Plant Kingdom


  • Comprises of 1,2 and 3.
  • They are the most primitive.
  • Live in warm and moist areas, not near pollution – they don’t cope well.
  • Small and simple plants
  • More than 23000 species

Vascular Plants:

  • Can conduct fluid around the plant.
  • Have true stems and roots


  1. Phylum Hepaticophyta ( cellular) (liverworts)
  2. Phylum Anthocerophyta (cellular) (hornworts)
  3. Phylum Bryophyta (mosses)
  • No leaves, but have similar structures
  • Dominant visible stage is Gametophyte
  • No roots, stems or vascular system
  • Absorb water through body surface – take in moisture
  • Photosynthesise
  • Needs water for fertilization to occur, has no seeds or flower fruits
  1. Phylum Psilophyta
  • Made up of two genera: Psilotum and Tmesipteris
  • The dominant stage or reproduction is Sporophyte
  • No flowers, fruits or seeds. Water absorbtion into the underground stem and then carried through.
  • Water is needed for fertilization
  1. Phylum Lycophyta
  2. Phylum Equisetophyta(horse tale)
  3. Phylum Polipodiophyta or Filiocophyta (ferns)
  4. Phylum Cycadophyta (cycas)
  5. Phylum Ginkgophyta (Ginkgo Bilobc)
  6. Phylum Conifernophyta (Conifers) ( I think it is Medicinal)
  7. Phylum Gentophyta (Ephedra)
  8. Phylum Magboliophyta (Flowering)

v  From 3 down, they are vascular plants – they have no heart but they do have a means of pushing and pulling fluid through the cells.

v  Flowering plants only came out after dinosaurs

v  Some don’t seed, only spore

Botanical Nomenclature :

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

For example: Peppermint

•             Kingdom – Plantae

•             Phylum – Magnoliphyta

•             Class – Magnoliopsida

•             Order – Lamiales

•             Family – Lamiaceae

•             Genus – Mentha (mint family)

•             Species- Piperita

Nomenclature: “Procedure of assigning names to the kinds and groups of organisms listed in a taxonomic classification”.

While most plants have a common name, used in the area or country, the ICBN has made all plants need to be referred to as their scientific name after deaths due to consumption of the wrong plant after labelling errors from the common name. It is used because it clearly identifies and allows international exchange.

Latin is used because it was used during the 18th century when most plants were first classed, greek is also used sometimes. Latin Binomial is always written in italics. Bi-Nomial : two names.

NAMING: The generic name – with a capital leter, name of the genus and the Specific epithet, no capital and refers to the spp. (species) inside the genus. eg. Mentha piperita.

Vulgaris – common

Sativa – of the fields

Tinctora – used as a dye

Many herbs will have either: Officinalis (female) or Officinale (male), because they were officially in the Materia Medica, used prior to 1700s and were used as medicinal.

  • Plants of two different spp do not breed naturally, if they do, it is called a hybrid. Hybrids have not evolved, only bred by crossing parents, hybrids are named using both parents names separated by an ‘x’. for example, if Digitalis lueta and Digitalis purpurea interbred, it would be called: Digitalis lueta x D. purpurea.
  • sp = one species
  • spp = the grouping within a species

There are 2 reasons to change a name:

  1. in order to keep up to date with new conventions (convention is the family names come from the genus, so if the genus changes, so does the family name)
  2. If a plant was originally under a different name, the plant will go back to it’s first published name

Oh but don’t forget Reclassification:

  • As more information becomes available the group may be reclassified.
  • Or if the information is reinterpreted and a different opinion becomes widely accepted.


***Little tips for pressing flowers, cut it and leave it for 24 hours before pressing, if the flower is thick, you can cut the back off.

Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons

An Angiosperm / Anthophyta is divived into : Monocots and Dicots


  • Have one leaf
  • Mono = one
  • Cotyledon = seed leaf
  • Grasses, Lillie’s, orchids, palms and irises – because of the way that they germinate


  • Have two leaves
  • Trees, bushes and herbs

Seed Plants:

  • Seeding plants have an advantage over the less evolved plants. The seed itself has an embryo, food source and a protective layer along with some stuff we will talk about later. The embryo has a starchy food source which allows it to survive until it is the optimal conditions to grow and the protective coat allows it to be protected until it is time to germinate, the seeds are not reliant on water fertilization as they are transported, by animals, and air. Seeding plants that flower have only come out since the dinosaurs died out when the earth was hit by a meteor.

Flowering Plants:

  • Like plants that seed, flowing plants are also a lot more at an advantage than the primitive plants. The use of fruits along-side pollens encourages a better dispersal of seeds.
Plant Monocots Dicots
Roots Fibrous (top soil) Taproot (deep roots)
Stems Herbaceous Herbaceous or woody
Leaves Parallel venation , the veins run parallel Reticulate venation, veins run out from the horizontally ? (I don’t know how to describe it)
Flowers In 3s In 4s and 5s
Seeds 1 cotyledon 2 cotyledon

Monocots :

  • Only have one seed leaf inside
  • Contains the endosperm with feed the new plant
  • Like a rice or corn seed, it stays together
  • Leaves are often long and narrow, with veins straight up
  • Stems are usually unbranched and fleshy. They wont grow longer from year to year
  • Won’t die from ringbarking
  • Everything in threes, sepals are often the same colour as the petals, same number of stamens as petals
  • Seed pods or fruit  are large and fleshy


  • 2 seed leaves
  • Contain the endosperm to feed new plant
  • Breaks into two. like how a bean separates when soaked
  • The first two leaves are not true leaves, they simply contain food for the embryo, so the true leaves will be a different shape
  • Leaves on the dicots come in different shapes and sizes. Veins go from centre to the edge of the leaf (netted pattern on the leaf)
  • Will die from ringbarking, the stem grows bigger each year, they are woody and tough.
  • The roots are tap, with one long main root with feeders accompanying
  • Copper is also toxic to trees
  • Flowers come in four or five, calyx is a separate ring of sepals under corolla, usually green
  • Seed pod or fruit are variable in size and appearance

Seeds: gymnosperm (naked seeds) and angiosperms make up seed plants, they came in at the cycads – after the dinosaurs.

  • Seeds contain: embryo, food store and a testa (Seed coat  (protects the embryo from unfavourable conditions until it is suitable for germination) ), radicle – root, plumule – embryonic stem, cotyledon – the leafy bit and micropyle


  • monocots have the seed used to the fruit wall, the outer layer is called the pericarp. Inside is the endosperm, the food source, a single cotyledon, the plumule and radicle( p and r both enclosed in a protective shell ) .Dicots have two cotyledons, that is the differnce


Plant or fungus emerges from seeds or spore and begins growth, “sprouting”. Some seeds go through dormancy, to ensure safety of seed if it goes through gastro tract of an animal, it will break from dormancy when the conditions are optimum, these include environmental factors, oxygen – it doesn’t have chlorophyll gear yet and oxygen is needed for metabolism as it is used in cellular respiration – is main source of energy until leaves have grown, water, temperate, light or dark. When seedlings food source is exhausted, that’s when the photosynthesis kicks in to provide food.


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