plant taxonomy practical

Janice M. Glime jmglime at
Wed Dec 15 12:02:16 EST 1999

  In my general botany course, I start the first week with each group of 4
students receiving a box of plants.  It includes live, preserved, dried,
and herbarium specimens with as much variety and representation of
reproductive parts as we can provide (in mid winter with 3' of snow on the
ground!).  Students are asked to group their plants and prepare a
justification to offer the class on why.  I try to keep some of the odd
things, like Spanish moss, in each box while varying others among groups. 
I ask students to arrange their plants in groups according to
characteristics they see.  They can use whatever prior knowledge they
have, but they must explain this and defend it to their groupmates and
later the class.  After about 15 minutes (perhaps longer), I ask the
students to compare their groupings with that of the other group at their
table and see if they have come to similar groupings, then combine
everything into new groups.  Students seem to enjoy this and it forces
them to look carefully and talk about things, as well as providing an
icebreaker for the groups.
  Another activity from my plant morphology class that you might want to
combine with this is to arrange things phylogenetically as they think it
should be.  I do this with species of Lycopodium.  By using species with
no strobilus, terminal strobilus, and strobilus on modified branch, plus
varying degrees of leaf reduction, several possibilities exist within
reasonable schemes.  If you have access to a number of species in one
genus, with good variation of this sort, or even give them phyla to
arrange, it will get them to thinking about characters that are important
in evolution.
 Janice M. Glime, Professor  
 Department of Biological Sciences
 Michigan Technological University
 Houghton, MI 49931-1295
 jmglime at
 FAX 906-487-3167 


More information about the Plant-ed mailing list