Monoecious w/ a pedagogic trick

Ken Klemow kklemow at WILKES1.WILKES.EDU
Tue Nov 19 21:12:33 EST 1996

David Haas wrote:
>What would be some examples of polygamo-monecious, dioecious plants??  I
>am curious.
>D. Haas

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As I understand, maples are notorious for being polygamous.  Whether they
are polygamo-monoecious or -dioecious or both, I'm not sure.

On a different note, Ross Koning wrote that he is concerned about the
overwhelming amount of terminology that botany students must learn.  I
agree wholeheartedly, but rather than not introduce the terminology in my
botany courses, I use the following exercise at the beginning of the
semester to sensitize my students as to the need for terminology.

The exercise involves dividing my class into four groups of four to six
students each.  I give each group an erect herbaceous plant (e.g., fireweed
- Erechtites hieracifolia, or butter-and-eggs) complete with roots and
reproductive organs, along with a meter-stick.  Each group is to then
provide an exact description of the plant in writing, in as much detail as
they can muster.  The catch is that they cannot use ANY botanical
terminology.  Thus, terms like stem, leaf, root, branch, or flower are
off-limits.  The students are free to use shapes, sizes, textures, angles,
colors, etc.  I give the students about twenty minutes to complete the
exercise, with the result being that each team must provide a written

After the twenty minutes is up, I collect the descriptions and then run
down to the departmental office to make a transparency of each one.  I then
critique each description before the whole class, typically ripping them
apart because they lack detail or accuracy, or because they inadvertantly
use botanical terms.

About mid-way through the exercise, the students become VERY frustrated
over not being able to use common botanical terms in their descriptions.
With that frustration in mind, I then tell the students that terminology is
necessary for good scientific communication, and warn them that much
terminology is to come.  If they become frustrated by the fairly large
number of terms I give them during the course of the semester, they should
think back to the exercise in which use of terminology was prohibited.

I've done this exercise for the past five or six years now.  Rarely do I
get complaints about the terminology being excessive, even though I
introduce the students to a large number of botanical terms as the semester

Kenneth M Klemow, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Wilkes University
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
(717) 831-4758
kklemow at

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