Definition of Plant

Stephen M Jankalski CEREOID at
Sat Oct 9 05:26:38 EST 1999

A definition, A definition. My kingdom for a workable definition.

David Hershey <dh321 at> wrote in article
<37FED48F.F668681E at>...
> I think it's something worth discussing. Most botany textbooks don't
> have the term plant in their glossaries. Stern's "Introductory Plant
> Biology" does and defines plants simply as members of the Kingdom
> Plantae. There is certainly a lot of holdover from the old two kingdom
> system where plant was basically defined as nonanimal.  
> I think there are advantages to having a clear definition for plant.
> Botany is heavy on terminology, and much of it is confused despite
> lengthy glossaries in most botany/biology texts, floras, and field
> guides not to mention several dictionaries of botany. A lot of the
> definitions are imprecise, and different books often have significantly
> different definitions for the same term. Even young children should be
> able to tell apart a bacterium, a mushroom, and a tree, so to call all
> of them plants is potentially confusing especially given how difficult
> it is to replace student misconceptions about science with correct
> knowledge.  It would be very useful if there was a copyright-free,
> official online botanical glossary so that there could be less confusion
> in terminology. 
> The five kingdom system has wide acceptance in textbooks and although
> there are competing schemes, such as the three domain system, the five
> kingdom system has a lot of advantages for educational use. Five
> Kingdoms is often taught in high school biology and even as early as the
> 6th grade:  
> David Hershey
> dh321 at
> Russell_Goddard wrote:
> > 
> > On Thu, 7 Oct 1999, David Hershey wrote:
> > 
> > > the Plant Kingdom
> > > consists of just bryophytes and vascular plants, so I was surprised
> > 
> > > the American Society of Plant Physiologists'.. states...
> > > that "Plants exhibit diversity in size and shape ranging from single
> > > cells to gigantic trees."
> > >
> > > Is there still disagreement over what organisms are included in the
> > > Plant Kingdom?
> > >
> > 
> > My answer?  I don't think there is that much disagreement with what
> > organisms are included in the Plant Kingdom, but there is disagreement
> > what organisms might be included under the TERM, "plant."  I tell my
> > students that the word plant is a term and not a taxonomic
> > This makes it much easier for them to digest the evololutionary origins
> > terrestrial plants.  As a term, many definitions of the word "plant"
> > in use by biologists (and others).  You really have two questions
> > "What organisms should be included in Kingdom Plantae?"  ...and "what
is a
> > plant?"  The word "plant" is not necessarily synonymous with organisms
> > Kingdom Plantae.  I spend my first lecture/discussion in botany class
> > this topic, "What is a plant."  There is no clear answer.  I use a
> > definition that includes all photosynthetic (chlorophyll a containing)
> > organisms in three Kingdoms.  I then spend time talking about the
> > cyanobacteria in general and prochlorophytes specifically for making
> > connections to the eukaryotic algae.  I like to show the diversity of
> > form and function in several Phyla of algae and their similarities to
> > terrestrial plants, then spend more time on the Chlorophyta as
> > possible progenitors to what we now include in Kingdom Plantae.  So for
> > me, they are all "plants" but obviously this is debatable.  As
> > do we need to define this term more specifically among ourselves?
> > 
> >
> > Russell H. Goddard              Phone:  (912) 249-2642
> > Valdosta State University       Main Office:  (912) 333-5759
> > Biology Department              FAX:    (912) 333-7389
> > 2009 Nevins Hall           email: rgoddard at
> > Valdosta, GA  31698-0015
> >

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