Day 2: Botany I

College classes devote an entire semester to botany. Carl Linnaeus, the father of scientific taxonomy, spent his life on it.

Our Master Gardener class plans to get through it in six hours. Thursday was day one. The mind reels.


Carl Linnaeus by Alexander Roslin

And now I’m going to summarize everything I learned.

Lessons Learned

  • We use classification systems to help identify and differentiate plants using a commonly agreed upon set of standards.
  • There is more than one plant classification system.
  • Different plant classification systems differ based on the users’ needs. Five ways to classify include:
    • Horticultural, i.e., by growth habit: Woody vs. herbaceous
    • Use: Ornamental vs. natural
    • Hardiness: Hardy vs. tender
    • Growth habit: Annual vs. perennial
    • Structures: Flowers, leaves, stems
  • Then there’s the Taxonomic Hierarchy of living things (in descending from most inclusive to most specific)
    • Kingdom
    • Division (formerly Phylum)
    • Class
    • Order
    • Family
    • Genus
    • Species
    • Variety, form, cultivar
  • Binomial naming gives every living thing in a species a two part name using Latin. (For the first time since graduating from high school, I used my Latin to show off in front of a group of people. My classmates were impressed, appreciative of my knowledge and empathetic to the years lost in gaining this knowledge.)
  • MOST IMPORTANT: There are enough exceptions to the classification rules to confuse anyone.
    • For instance, during our hands-on demonstration, we categorized 10 piney (scientific name) evergreen branches.
    • They fell into two families: Pine (Pinaceae) and cypress (Cupressaceae).
    • Each family contained multiple cedars. (Argh.)
    • And the cypress family contained a pine. (Double argh.)


  • Biennial – Two-year life cycle.
  • Botany – Scientific study of plants, including their physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance.
  • Deciduous – Shedding leaves annually.
  • Evergreen – Never loses all of its leaves at the same time.
  • Foliage – Leaves
  • Herbaceous – No lignum or cambrian layer. (Yeah, I don’t get it either.)
  • Horticulture – Art or practice of garden cultivation and management.
  • Perennial – Lives two or more years (not forever) and produces new leaves, flowers and seeds each growing season.
  • Tenders – Not tolerant of frost or cold temperatures.
  • Woody – Contains lignum and has cambrian layers. (See herbaceous for my view.)


Do last week’s assignment, including study of herbaceous and woody classifications.


September 21, 2016 – The flower pictured above is from the genus Datura, also known as Devil’s Trumpet, which is appropriate since it belongs to the poisonous Nightshade family. And now you know.


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